2:43 PM: The article has been updated to reflect comments from Attorney Jason Guinasso.
The Globe has received an exclusive copy of a bar complaint filed against Attorney Jason Guinasso of Hutchison and Stephen PLLC citing conflicts of interest and gross misconduct.
As reported by The Globe, Guinasso is representing the Committees to Recall Incline Village General Improvement District Trustees Sara Schmitz and Matthew Dent in an appeal to the Secretary of State after the committees failed to gather enough signatures for a special election.
The bar complaint reads:
Re: Jason Guinasso Nevada Bar license number 8478
Company: Hutchison & Steffen PLLC
5371 Kietzke Lane, Reno, NV 89511
Phone : (775) 853-8746
Dear Members of the Nevada Office of Bar Counsel,
This is a formal complaint against a member of the State Bar of Nevada, Jason Guinasso. Mr. Guinasso is practicing attorney and a member of the State Bar of Nevada. Mr. Guinasso is actively violating the following rules of professional conduct:
- Rules 1.8 (conflict of interest to current clients)
- 1.9 (duties to former clients)
- 1.10 (imputation of conflict of interest) 1.11, ( special conflict of interest)
Allegations: Gross misconduct, conflict of interest.
Mr. Guinasso is representing two committees in an appeal to the Secretary of State pertaining to the results of the signature verification process for the recall effort of two elected Incline Village General Improvement District (IVGID) Trustees. The committees are called “The Committee to Recall IVGID Trustee Sara Schmitz” and “The Committee to Recall IVGID Trustee Mathew Dent.” (See Exhibit A – Press release from Mr. Guinasso)
Mr. Guinasso previously worked for the Incline Village General Improvement District (IVGID) as Legal Counsel, and in that capacity represented both Trustee Dent and Trustee Schmitz, as they served on the Board of Trustees. Additionally, the leader of the recall effort, Tim Callicrate former IVGID Trustee, worked closely with Mr. Guinasso in this capacity of District Legal Counsel for 8 years. Tim Callicrate was the initiator of the Notice of Intent to Recall and the formation of the committees.
Mr. Guinasso, and his legal firm Hutchison & Steffen, were removed as the Legal Counsel for Incline General Improvement District by the Board of Trustees which included Trustees Dent, Schmitz and Tim Callicrate, the initiator of the Intent to Recall and organizer and director of the two committees.
Mr. Guinasso, during his tenure with IVGID as Legal Counsel, represented the District during union negotiations and for all HR related matters. Employees, both past and present, signed the recall petition, circulated the recall petitions and financially supported the committees. In addition to the employees, the Districts Operating Engineers District 11 PAC also provided financial support to the committees recall effort. This can be verified by the list of names included in the appeal and the Nevada Secretary of State Monetary Contributions section of the CE report filed by the committees on 9/25/2023. Below are the links to those committee reports:
Schmitz Committee CE report:
Dent Committee CE report:
By representing the committees in the appeal to the Secretary of State, Mr. Guinasso has an undeniable conflict of interest.
Mr. Guinasso, in his capacity as legal councel for IVGID, had access to volumes of confidential and privileged information while working for the District.
Mr. Guinasso’s involvement in the appeal to the Secretary of State against his former clients is a violation of the rules of professional conduct by a licensed attorney in Nevada.
Guinasso responded to The Globe:
I am not aware of a bar complaint filed against me? I have not received or been asked to respond to any bar complaint.
I am not aware of a conflict of interest? I have not been attorney for IVGID since 2020 and I have never represented Mr. Dent or Ms. Schmitz.
I have not engaged in gross misconduct.
I am surprised a news outlet would be publishing a bar complaint before I have had an opportunity to review it and receive due process afforded to me by the state bar. Normally, bar complaints are private matters between the attorney being accused, the complainant, and the state bar. But, I understand that IVGID is a public entity and this story may be an issue of public concern from your perspective. However, I would caution that, just because someone raised allegations in a bar complaint about me, does not make those allegations true or correct. Anyone can file a bar complaint and allege whatever they want to allege. A bar complaint does not take much time or expense to file.
If you have questions about my tenure as legal counsel for IVGID, I would be happy to answer your questions.
As for the appeal and recall effort, I was retained to initiate the appeal. I think the appeal speaks for itself and details the facts and legal basis for the appeal. But, if you have specific questions about the appeal, I am happy to answer your questions. I have no opinion on whether Trustee Dent or Trustee Schmitz should be recalled or not. I am not a resident of IVGID and have no vote on the issue. My role, as attorney, is simply to initiate an appeal challenging the signature verification processes used by the Washoe County Registrar of Voters Department to verify whether the Petitions to Recall Trustees Schmitz and Dent gathered enough signatures to require a recall election.
For further reference, under Guinasso’s legal direction, IVGID illegally refused to make public thousands of government records.
In 2018, resident Mark Smith sued IVGID after IVGID’s hired attorney Jason Guinasso denied most of Smith’s public records requests.
In 2017, Smith placed an order for emails between Guinasso and IVGID’s then-General Manager Steve Pinkerton. Guinasso said that 13,000 pages of emails were confidential due to attorney-client privilege and 304 pages would cost Smith $1 per page to produce.
Both the denial and attempted fees were deemed illegal under the Nevada Public Records Act. Five years later, Smith said he got the records and a settlement for attorney fees.
The appeal by the recall committee’s (see below) contend that the signature verification process conducted by the Washoe County Registrar’s office was, in part, inconsistent.
This is a developing story.
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