(Courtesy of Phil Sategna)

FARMINGTON — Former Bloomfield Schools Athletic Director Phil Sategña says he has been "vindicated" by a favorable ruling on a complaint he filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming the school district fired him because of his age and retaliated against him for making the complaint.

Derick Newton, Area Office Director of the Albuquerque office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, wrote in a letter that there is reasonable cause to believe the charges, which are violations of the "Age Discrimination in Employment Act."

"I felt very, very vindicated. I guess that would be the best word to use" Sategña said.

Calls made to District Superintendent Joe Rasor and attorney Andrew Sanchez of the law firm Cuddy and McCarthy, which represents the district, seeking comment were not returned as of press time Tuesday.

Newton's letter notes that Bloomfield School District officials deny Sategña's allegations, stating he was "let go due to an audit which was conducted into the Athletic Department which revealed financial irregularities."

The district also claims Sategña was not retaliated against for any reason and suffered no "harm" after being let go by the district.

Sategña said he believes he was fired for a number of reasons, including his salary and the amount of influence he had in the district after 34 years of steady employment.

Newton's letter also alleges the district "hired an individual close to (Sategña's) age to replace him but this individual had no prior interest in the Athletic Director position and he was asked to apply by (district) officials after they became aware of Sategña EEOC charge."

The district hired Steve Scott to replace Sategña. Scott declined comment on Tuesday.

Newton's letter states the district also made efforts to prevent Sategña from receiving various awards, including an induction into the New Mexico Athletic Association's Hall of Fame.

Sategña was inducted into the association's Hall of Fame on March 13.

"I think it shows the administration at Bloomfield had it in for me," Sategña said. "This more than proves that they had it in for me because they continued to try and stifle any kind of award or any pleasure that I had, that I was going to get any credit from. They did everything they could do to prevent that."

Evidence obtained by the EEOC during the investigation "revealed that" district officials asked when Sategña would retire and did not allow him to address allegations brought up by the financial audit for 2011-2012 school year, Newton's letter states.

Sategña was placed on paid administrative leave in May 2012 when he held the positions of athletic director and cross country and boys track coach.

In December 2012, Rasor said Sategña's contract was not renewed after a Title IX review showed financial and accounting discrepancies within the athletic department.

The financial allegations brought up by the district were related to the 2011-2012 audit which listed several findings related to Sategña's management of the athletic department including improperly tracking Title IX donations, and lack of inventory and sales records for merchandise and concession sales.

Sategña's attorney Liane Kerr said the district and her client will enter into conciliation to try to resolve the matter.

Kerr and Sategña both declined to say whether they are considering any further legal action.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.