RENO, Nev. — The Washoe County School District has removed superintendent Pedro Martinez from his job with little explanation in a move that surprised Reno city officials who embraced his hiring two years ago and is raising questions about whether school board trustees followed the state’s open-meetings law.
Martinez’s official status wasn’t clear Wednesday after the district first said in statement he had been “relieved of his duties” effectively immediately, then clarified he was on paid administrative leave.
Martinez, who helped shepherd the district through a deadly schoolyard shooting and had taken a lead role in pushing tax increases to boost education spending, said he believes he was terminated unfairly in a dispute over his resume.
His lawyer, William Peterson, questioned Wednesday whether the board violated Nevada’s open-meetings law when it reportedly decided at a public workshop on Tuesday to remove Martinez from his job.
Martinez said the board claimed he misrepresented his credentials as a certified public accountant, despite the fact he provided documentation proving he passed the CPA exam.
“I was accused of something that is basically untrue,” Martinez told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “They accused me of lying about being a licensed CPA. I am shocked. I am heartbroken at the same time.”
The district said in a statement late Tuesday announcing that Martinez had been relieved of duties that board members “are in discussions with Mr. Martinez, and for legal reasons, we cannot share specific details.”
Barbara Clark, president of the board of trustees, said Wednesday she could not discuss the matter, but said she did not mean to suggest that Martinez had terminated and said the board would be meeting soon to discuss options for an “interim” superintendent.
“At this time, Pedro Martinez has been relieved of his duties, but he is still being paid,” she told the Gazette-Journal.
Martinez served as the deputy superintendent of the Clark County school district before topping five candidates to take the helm of the 63,000-student district in August 2012. His current annual salary is $238,000, and his four-year contract ran through July 31, 2016.
The district said in Tuesday’s statement that while the trustees consider their options, the district will be led by Traci Davis, the deputy superintendent who will be in charge of educational matters, and by Kristen McNeill, the district’s chief of staff who will oversee operations.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell said he was caught off guard by the firing.
“I am very surprised,” Cashell said. “I thought Pedro was doing a good job.”
Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger said he, too, was “very surprised.”
District board trustee Estella Gutierrez said she was at a meeting in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday when she was told the other six members of the board had voted to terminate Martinez during the public workshop. She said such a vote was not on the agenda. She said she was “blindsided” by the decision and believes “he’s done a great job.”
“If something like that was on the agenda, I would have been alerted,” she said.
Martinez pushed Assembly Bill 46 through the 2013 Nevada Legislature, which ultimately asked the Washoe County Commission to increase sales and property taxes for school repairs. The proposal never came to a vote and died.
He also led the response to the fatal schoolyard shooting and personally welcomed students back to Sparks Middle School in October after 12-year-old Jose Reyes killed a teacher and wounded two classmates before committing suicide.