Clovis News

Ex-Clovis West coach allowed to sue district

Football coach Marty Martin, fired in 2008 at Clovis West after posting a winning record, can go forward with his lawsuit against the school district for breach of contract, a judge has ruled.

Martin sued Clovis Unified School District two years ago in Fresno County Superior Court, saying pressure from boosters and parents led to his firing after one season with the Golden Eagles.

Earlier this month, Clovis Unified sought to get the lawsuit dismissed, but Judge Donald Franson Jr. said there are "triable issues" regarding Martin's contract as Clovis West football coach.

Kelly Avants, the school district's director of communications, said Thursday that she could not comment. "We are in the midst of open litigation regarding Mr. Martin," Avants said in an e-mail.

Attorney Dan Siegel, who represents Martin, said the ruling was a "big hurdle" in Martin's quest to prove he was wrongfully terminated.

At issue is whether Martin's was hired as a full-time football coach, as he asserts, or was he coaching football as an extra-duty assignment, as the district claims.

As a full-time coach, Martin was entitled to a hearing to fight his dismissal, Siegel said. Because school officials fired Martin, he "was denied his 14th Amendment right to due process," Siegel said.

In his lawsuit, Martin contends Clovis West administrators recruited him and led him to believe his appointment was on a long-term basis. He and his family moved from Southern California, where he was football coach at Village Christian High in Sun Valley.

Siegel said Clovis Unified officials gave him a written contract as director of Clovis West's football operation. His duties included coaching the football team, teaching physical education to football players and monitoring middle school students who have ties to the Clovis West program.

In his Aug. 11 ruling, Franson said Martin's written contract was approved by the school board. Martin also received "oral agreements" from the high school's administrative staff, the judge noted.

Martin's job title was listed on a district's requisition form as "physical education teacher/head varsity football coach," Franson said.

"The requisition does not designate the position of head varsity football coach as an extra-duty assignment," Franson said. "Therefore there is a triable issue of fact whether the position of head varsity football coach is a regular full-time position or extra-duty assignment."

Martin was fired as coach in January 2008, two months after leading Clovis West to a 9-4-1 record and runner-up finish in the Central Section Division I playoffs. He has been Kerman High's football coach since fall 2008.

His lawsuit seeks damages for past and future lost wages and benefits; compensatory damages for emotional distress and damaged reputation; and attorneys fees. A trial date is pending, Siegel said.