AG: Washoe school board broke the law

Sep 3, 2014

Nevada's attorney general says the Washoe County School Board violated the state's open meetings law when it ousted Superintendent Pedro Martinez. 

According to the complaint filed in district court on Tuesday, the school board broke the law in at least six different ways when trustees questioned Martinez about his status as a certified public accountant and then fired him.

In long interviews with investigators, the trustees say they only placed Martinez on administrative leave and didn’t intend to fire him, but that plan was derailed when they confronted him about the CPA issue and he became upset.

The superintendent and other members of the staff say, once Martinez left the building, the board immediately informed them that Martinez was no longer their boss. Both sides—the trustees and the superintendent—accuse the other of threatening to make the issue public.  

The complaint concludes the board did, in fact, fire Martinez. The violations of the Nevada Open Meeting Law include the board’s discussion of personnel issues during what was ostensibly a “legal meeting,” deciding to hold a public hearing over the superintendent’s alleged misconduct and making several attempts to pay off Martinez on the condition of his resignation.

Trustee Howard Rosenberg says he was told by the district’s in-house counsel, Randy Drake, that they weren’t even close to violating the open meeting law.

Estella Gutierrez is the only trustee not named in the complaint because she wasn’t at the meeting.

A lawyer for the school district says each of the six trustees named in the complaint has agreed to pay a $250 fine under a settlement agreement.