School board Trustee Rob Clayton served notice of his intent to sue the district he helps lead last Thursday, alleging slander against the Blaine County School District—specifically its superintendent, GwenCarol Holmes.
According to the document, which Clayton hand-delivered to the district’s Bullion Street office on July 25, Holmes started a rumor that the trustee was in a sexual relationship with then-Human Resources Director Shannon Maza “intended to cast salacious ill repute.”
“It’s harmful, it’s hurtful,” Clayton said on Monday. “Sure, I’m a public figure—I signed up for some of it. But I didn’t sign up to have improper, improprietous comments made against me. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed—and I’m addressing it.”
The alleged incident stems from a late January meeting in which Clayton acted as a witness for Maza during a performance review with the superintendent. Wood River Middle School Principal Fritz Peters and then-board Clerk Amanda LaChance witnessed the alleged slander, according to the document.
Maza and Clayton, both divorced, had separately told the Idaho Mountain Express that they were never involved in such a relationship. And, now, both have said so in separate tort claims against Holmes.
Clayton’s claim closely mirrors the first of two served by Maza, neither of which resulted in court filings. Last month, she and the School District settled out of court for $125,000, breaking her contract three weeks early and quashing potential lawsuits alleging bullying and slander against Holmes, according to a separation agreement obtained via a public records request by the Idaho Mountain Express. The agreement includes a confidentiality clause barring either party from addressing the settlement, or the events leading up to it.
The school board approved the deal 4-0 on June 11. Clayton recused himself from the vote.
Later that same night, the board stripped Clayton of his chairmanship and censured the former top trustee for unspecified violations of its code of ethics. Specifics of the charge remain shielded by the rules of closed executive session—there were several leading to the decision—but at the time Clayton told the Express that he “overstepped” on two occasions, including by attending Maza’s job review.
“I didn’t know it was a performance evaluation,” he said in June. “I wanted to witness the process. In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do.”
A notice of tort claim is the first step toward bringing a governmental entity to court. Under Idaho law, the district now has 90 days to respond; if it doesn’t, the claim is considered denied, at which time the claimant can file a suit in district court.
As of press time on Tuesday, the School District could not be reached for comment.
Assuming the dates with the document are accurate, Clayton’s claim came within a day of the state’s 180-day statute of limitations for serving notice to the district for the Jan. 28 incident.
“I reflected on it for a long time,” he said. “I didn’t really want to enter into this, but at a certain point, enough is enough. There’s an impact—on my health, my family, my standing in the community. Things that matter to me outside of my school board role. I was harmed, and I needed to act before my window of opportunity closed.”