Trustees settle with AG, pay out $1,500 each

Sep 9, 2014

The Washoe County School Board of Trustees has agreed to a settlement with the Nevada Attorney General over the board's improper firing of Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

 

Six of the trustees will pay $1,500 each for violating the Nevada Open Meeting law in multiple ways.

Attorney Kent Robison, who's representing the trustees, says they could have litigated this issue for months.

"The fees would have been substantial...neither the district, nor the public need that kind of harm at this point in time, or any point in time. The fact is the Open Meeting Law was violated that day."

Robison says he was surprised the attorney general found the board guilty of six different violations of the law. Still, the trustees insisted the money come directly from their own pockets and the settlement include an apology from the board to the public.

Robison says the board did waive certain legitimate defenses by agreeing to this settlement.

"The statute under which the trustees have been charged requires actual knowledge of violation as and when the violations are occurring. That to me was a big issue with respect to individual trustees' conduct."

But Robison says, ultimately, the trustees, the attorney general and the public don't want this to drag on any longer. Also, many of the trustees have served in other public offices before and have experience with the open meeting law.

Trustee Estela Gutierrez is not part of the case because she was absent when the board fired Martinez.

Trustee Barbara McLaury said they let the public down and she hopes other elected officials take note.

"The penalty of a $1,500 fine is not, under the circumstances, uncalled for or inappropriate; however, I hope the candor and remorse with which we've reached this settlement does not go unnoticed or unappreciated."

The trustees still need to resolve another suit with Martinez for breaking his contract. They plan to enter mediation with a judge  later this month.