Bloviating boss of the Nevada Independent, Jon Ralston, took to Twitter to accuse the Douglas County School Board of corruption in order to amplify an article highlighting invoices sent to the board from their newly retained Reno Attorney Joey Gilbert. Ultimately, the board voted 5-2 to approve payment of Gilbert’s invoices with Trustees Linda Gilkerson and Carey Kangas voting “No.”
Gilbert’s law firm was hired back in July as General Counsel for the the Douglas County School District (DCSD) in a 4-3 vote replacing Maupin, Cox & Legoy which had represented the district for over 20 years. In part, the change in legal representation comes in response to the ACLU NV threatening to sue the district should they implement a district-wide ordinance to protect female and male sports and private spaces. The rural district is home to 14 schools, 5,000 students, and is a Republican stronghold.
We didn't see any DeTaiLs of CoRruPtion.
Golonka doesn't make those claims because he can't substantiate those claims.
However, the previous board amended bylaws to empower an unelected Superintendent, amending his contract 6 times to reward him.
We'll take it from here. https://t.co/3xEBwPHs1R
— Nevada Globe (@NevadaGlobe) September 18, 2023
As The Globe notes in our reply to Ralston’s baseless allegation, we’ll take it from here to shed additional light on the public and administrative backlash the newly-elected conservative board members have endured during meetings that stretch upwards towards eight hours, many of those hours due to filibustering by a small group of local activists led by former Douglas County School Board President Robbe Lehmann, current Trustee Gilkerson and Lyon County Principal Patrick Peters.
In this 10 minute video taken at the closing minutes from the last board meeting on September 12, Lehmann notes that he and his red-clad colleagues can run out the clock which would, by design, obstruct the business of the community as outlined on the meeting’s agenda.
Lehmann then employs other tactics like ‘losing his train of thought’ to delay and further sabotage the meeting. Other obstructing tactics led by Lehmann and others include filing numerous public records requests, open meeting law complaints, and engaging in “lawfare” by filing multiple lawsuits since January 2023.
During the lengthy and combative meeting, Trustee Kangas charged, “We are not being transparent with the public and with public funds. Why don’t we just call this what it is? This is a political coup to take over Douglas County School District and hold our children hostage to a political ideology.”
“Hostage to a political ideology” and “political coup” is quite hyperbolic, similar to Ralston’s unsubstantiated claims of corruption, but hyperbole is pretty standard in politics, especially when those who hold elected office lose an election, and along with it, their power and influence.
But, let’s address Trustee Kangas’ claims of the lack of public transparency and use of public funds by the board’s new majority.
The former board, led by Trustees Lehmann, Gilkerson, and Kangas, unanimously amended numerous bylaws and created policy that ultimately expanded the power of the unelected Superintendent and essentially stripped the Trustees of their power granted to them by the Nevada legislature.
Additionally, the former board unanimously amended Superintendent Keith Lewis’ initial contract five times in two years even though Lewis didn’t finish his contracted four-year term.
The changes the board approved ultimately extended Lewis’ contract to six years.
This rubber-stamped extension may violate Nevada law as his contract now exceeds statutory limitations. According to NRS 391.110, “A superintendent of schools may be employed for an initial term not to exceed 4 years.” (emphasis added)
Many of these changes to the bylaws, policies and the Superintendent’s contract occurred during the pandemic, which limited public comment and participation, and during the 2022 lame duck session of the board.
After the November 2022 election, the board, led by Trustees Lehmann, Gilkerson, and Kangas, suddenly ushered in a new policy which granted Superintendent Lewis the sole authority to investigate and authorize open records requests, requests often, if not always, are reserved for legal counsel. Once the newly elected board members were sworn in, the board was inundated with open records requests and related complaints.
During another lame duck session of the board, the Trustees, led by Gilkerson, Kangas and Lehmann, approved a substantial raise for Lewis. A report from the Record Courier announced:
A revised contract will give Superintendent Keith Lewis a $15,000 raise to a base salary of $175,000 after Douglas County School Board trustees approved the contract on Wednesday night. A pay comparison showed that Lewis was making $160,043 before, which put him ninth on the list of rural districts in the state.
The revised contract also provides for an increase from two percent to three percent in annual salary and provides additional employment protections.
Last week’s board meeting which, according to Ralston, highlighted the board’s corruption, actually demonstrates that the board’s elected majority seeks to regain their authority vested to them as provided by the Nevada legislature, authority that was undone by the changes to the bylaws and policies passed by the former board under the direction of Lehmann, Gilkerson and Kangas.
While Trustee Gilkerson continually repeated that she did not understand the reasons behind the proposed changes to the bylaws, challenged Nevada statutes, questioned the duties of the board’s officers, and the legal fees presented in the meeting, her prior actions as Trustee and the actions of local activists have caused additional legal expenses to accumulate as the administrative state fights to retain control and authority over elected officers and their respective constituents.
During Gilkerson’s hour-long diatribe, she claims that following Nevada statute is “undoing the district” and “silencing the Superintendent.” Yet, ceding her authority to an unelected superintendent is, in fact, undoing the district by silencing the constituents who voted for a new and conservative school board majority.
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