Home>Articles>WCSD Approves $500K for Legal Defense, Votes Against External Investigation Into Harassment Allegations

Protest sign at WCSD meeting on March 12, 2024 (Photo: Megan Barth for The Nevada Globe)

WCSD Approves $500K for Legal Defense, Votes Against External Investigation Into Harassment Allegations

WCSD Chief General Counsel Neil Rombardo referred to Trustee Jeff Church as an ‘internal threat’

By Megan Barth, March 13, 2024 3:59 pm

During an expectedly contentious meeting, the Washoe County School District (WCSD) voted 6-0 to approve $500,000 for a legal defense “based on a pattern” of Trustee Jeff Church who has filed two lawsuits against the district and numerous Open Meeting Law violations. Church abstained from the vote. The Board’s majority also voted down Church’s request for an independent, external investigation into harassment allegations levied against him by two female District employees.

General Counsel Presentation (Screenshot)

Chief General Counsel Neil Rombardo initiated the meeting with his request for up to $500,000 additional funds for anticipated legal fees. During his approximate 90 minute presentation (see below), Rombardo took many opportunities to target Church and anyone who publicly or legally challenged the District. “Those who choose to take a different position, aren’t on the same team,” Rombardo warned. Rombardo then referred to Church as an “internal threat.”

Rombardo reminded the public and the Board about the duties of elected Trustees. When speaking about the duty of loyalty, Rombardo noted that as a Trustee, “You have a duty of loyalty to the District… when you act outside of those duties, a Trustee becomes conflicted…We have to protect the entity…To protect the District from one of its’ own Trustees is highly unusual.”

WCSD General Chief Counsel Neil Rombardo (Photo: Megan Barth for The Nevada Globe)

Board President Smith interjected, stating, “Trustee Church is legally conflicted…this is a formal designation. He will no longer be a part of attorney-client privilege as we know that he supporting legal actions against the District. She added that Church has a “pattern of predatory litigation against the District.” Although, Church will be included in the discussions of unrelated and numerous lawsuits filed against the district.

Rombardo summarized his office’s role as, “We defend this District and the good work of our employees and the efforts of our students,” noting that he “welcomes lawsuits.”

WCSD Jeff Church (Photo: Megan Barth for The Nevada Globe)

The second half of the eight hour meeting began with the Board deliberating the need for an external investigation into the “whistleblower” complaints against Trustee Church.

Church initiated the meeting by confirming the need for outside counsel. He then offered his resignation and promised to rescind his reelection campaign if there is an external investigation that proves he had made inappropriate comments to the two women who have been deemed “whistleblowers.” He also offered his resignation if anyone could prove the Rombardo’s claims that he was behind the numerous complaints filed against the District.

Rombardo gave another presentation regarding the female “whistleblowers” who filed “good faith” harassment complaints against Trustee Church. Rombardo argued that any external investigation into their complaints, that results in discipline, would be “retaliation.” Rombardo revealed that the “whistleblowers” believe that Church’s lawsuit is an intimidation tactic and they no longer feel safe in the District Administration building.

Rombardo also stressed that an external investigation would be a liability for the district and gave a shout-out to two unions assuring them that the District will stand in contempt of court to protect the two female “whistleblowers.”

During the first break, The Globe asked WEA President Calen Evans if the union investigates any and all harassment claims made by their members. Evans naturally responded “yes,” but deferred to union staff for the details of how an investigation is initiated. Evans gave public comment in favor of the $500,000 to defend the District. Evans was one of approximately three public comments in favor of the allocations. A majority of comments were in support of Trustee Church.

One constituent noted that the “whistleblowers'” allegations had not been verified by an internal or external investigation in order to be awarded the protection of whistleblower status. ¬†Another noted, “[Rombardo] just held a fundraiser” for the board members who ultimately voted in favor of the $500,000 in anticipated legal fees.

Along with Trustee Church, President Smith and Trustees Diane Nicolet and Alex Woodley are up for reelection in November 2024.

Trustee Church told The Globe, “Rombardo spent 90 minutes attacking me and trying the two cases in front of a fixed jury. We will have our day in court. However, far too many of his allegations were false and harmful to my character and campaign. I urge the media to fact check. This would be a great project for a Civics class to fact check. Ask him to detail every allegation, and if I prove him wrong, he should be held accountable. I read my oath again and owe no duty to put ethics aside and profess loyalty to the District. If anything, the District is the people, and that is where my loyalty lies.”

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Megan Barth
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