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WCSD Administration building, (Photo: KUNR)

WCSD Demands $500K to Avoid Independent Investigation and Public Records Requests

Trustee Jeff Church has filed a writ to compel release of records and an independent investigation into ‘false’ allegations of sexual harassment

By Megan Barth, March 11, 2024 6:48 am

If reality had a script, the drama and alleged politically-driven conspiracy within Washoe County School District (WCSD), the second largest Nevada school district, is seemingly well-choreographed and directed, according to Trustee Jeff Church who serves District A which spans from the east of Reno Airport to Carson City and Incline Village.

In 2020, retired police sergeant and Air Force veteran Lt. Col. Jeff Church campaigned to put “Service before Self” and pushed for meaningful reform in the struggling district. His platform emphasized transparency, integrity, excellence, student safety, and fiscal responsibility. Church handily won the district by 19 points.

Supporters of Trustee Jeff Church gather outside a school board meeting (Photo submitted by Jeff Church)

Upon his election, the sole “conservative” on the board, who is often the lone “no” vote on agenda items, was immediately met with threats of censure in 2021 and has allegedly been the target of Board retaliation and the subject of misleading headlines seemingly crafted to disparage his character and tarnish his 2024 reelection campaign.

Church claims there is a “pattern and a coordinated effort by WCSD to silence and undermine [his] ability to critique WCSD policies effectively.” 

Last fall, Church became the target of the latent #MeToo movement when two female District employees, deemed as “whistleblowers,” alleged he sexually harassed them in the parking lot after a school board meeting on August 8, 2023.

On September 12, during a meeting regarding a “confidential district matter” with Board President Beth Smith and Trustee Diane Nicolet, Church claims he was made aware of the allegations. According to Church, he demanded an independent investigation. He then asked the District for the video of the meeting room, the parking lot and requested all related communications to the allegations.

Trustee Jeff Church sits in boardroom at the time whistleblowers contend he sexually harassed them in the parking lot. (Photo provided by Jeff Church)

Initially, Church’s request for the video was rejected until WSCD Attorney Neil Rombardo was reminded of the Public Records Act. Church claims that the video exonerates him and the women making false claims violate District policy, further supporting the need of an independent investigation.

After the allegations surfaced, Board President Smith publicly accused Church of lying.

As reported by the Reno Gazette Journal:

“Trustee Church is lying about me and multiple aspects of this,” she wrote. “I have never, ever accused him of sexual harassment. Period. Nor is he or has he been subject to admonition for this. This is a confidential employee matter with the district, and I’m not commenting further on those specifics. ”

Church said Smith’s statement is why there needs to be an investigation. He said he had asked the district to investigate three times, including asking the district’s chief legal counsel Neil Rombardo to review security tapes.

From right to left, Board President Smith and Trustee Nicolet panel event on potential closure of Incline Middle School (Photo: Megan Barth for The Nevada Globe)

As a result of the Board’s obfuscation, Church hired an attorney and filed a Writ of Mandamus on March 1, 2024 (see below) to compel the district to adhere to Nevada law and district policies. It is important to note that the writ does not seek a large monetary settlement and is an expedited way to receive a Judge’s review/order to avoid costly litigation.

Once the writ was filed, the District demanded $500,000 of district funds to “hire outside counsel to defend the District against lawsuits, complaints and other actions filed by Jeffrey Church.”

According to the latest agenda for the upcoming March 12 meeting, the District is seemingly prepared to take public action against Trustee Church.

According to agenda items 3.0, the District may discuss Church’s “physical or mental health” or Church’s “character, professional competence.”

Screenshot of WCSD agenda

As for approving an independent, external investigation, Agenda 3.02 denies his request and may lead to further Board discussion of Trustee Church’s “competency.”

Screenshot of WCSD agenda

“Making fabricated allegations of sexual harassment diminishes and insults the true victims of sexual harassment. I am spending my daughters inheritance on this. It is a hill to die on,” Church told The Globe. 

Lets walk the dog on this,” Church added.Why would they spend $500,000 to prevent an independent investigation?  Why would you they that?  What is the logic? The logic is they are covering up a conspiracy at the highest levels. They didn’t expect I would demand the video which proves I was elsewhere and unable to sexually harass the women as they claim.”  

Church’s Attorney Luke Busby further claims in the writ:

Being confronted with absurd accusations of harassment and being publicly called a liar, are tactics aimed at tarnishing his reputation and delegitimizing his concerns, indicative of a targeted campaign based on Church political stance rather than evidence of any actual wrongdoing. Denying an investigation in these circumstances in effect condones and encourages continuing politically motivated attacks and false accusations on Trustee Church’s character and reputation and undermines his ability to effectively represent his constituents in his capacity as Trustee…

WCSD has a history of engaging external investigators for issues that are significantly less grave than the one involving Church .

Failing to investigate allegations of misconduct, especially when there is evidence (such as surveillance video) exonerating the accused party, shows a failure to effectively address risks to WCSD’s governance and reputation, and is a violation of Board Policy 9170.

The response to Church’s demand for an investigation by Mr. Rombardo, especially considering the existence of exculpatory evidence, also demonstrates a lack of appropriate action in response to the findings related to the allegations against him. This is further compounded by the public dispute over the accusations, which could have been mitigated through a timely and thorough and impartial investigation, as required by WCSD policy.

The unfounded allegations threaten to tarnish his reputation, skew public perception through one-sided narratives of WCSD, and divert resources to address these claims. This situation not only erodes voter trust—an indispensable element in any election—but also potentially alienates supporters, placing Church at a considerable disadvantage.

“Where a person’s good name, reputation, honor, or integrity is at stake because of what the government is doing to him, notice and an opportunity to be heard are essential.”

Explanation of WCSD policies (Screenshot of Writ of Mandamus)

Church is asking the public to attend the board meeting on March 12th at 9 am for the opportunity to be heard and to witness what could be described as the Board rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

In case WCSD parents and students missed the underlying iceberg, the Nevada Department of Education reports the grim 2022-2023 data of the failing district.

The proficiency rates in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics are cause for serious concern. ELA proficiency stands at 43.3 percent for elementary, 39.9 percent for middle school and 45.6 percent for high school students. Mathematics proficiency is even lower, with rates of 40.2 percent for elementary students, 27.7 percent for middle students, and an abysmal 22 percent for high school students. Many students do not meet grade-level standards in these fundamental subjects. Yet, WCSD’s graduation rate is 84.36 percent. Additionally, over one-third of students are chronically absent.  

Along with Church, President Smith and Trustees Nicolet and Alex Woodley are up for reelection in November 2024. Church recently filed for reelection and is asking the community to vote out the three other trustees to restore accountability, transparency, student achievement and safety in a a school district facing a near $2 million budget shortfall.

Church Investigation PetitionFINAL


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Megan Barth
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