Nevada Attorney General: Incline Village General Improvement District board violated open meeting law
District leadership disputes finding, plans to request review
February 4, 2019
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The General Improvement District board violated the state's open meeting law in 2017 when a lawsuit was initiated outside an open meeting, according to the Nevada Attorney General's Office.
District leadership disputes the conclusion and plans to seek board approval to request a review of the AG's opinion.
The complaint was filed by Frank Wright, a frequent critic of the Incline Village General Improvement District. In his complaint, Wright alleged the board took action to approve the initiation of a lawsuit during a closed session meeting in April 2017. In doing so it violated the law, a claim the AG's office agreed with.
Wright also accused the board of failing to notice a closed session meeting in November 2017, a claim the AG's office dismissed for several reasons.
The incident, per the AG's office, dates back to April 28, 2017 when trustees Kendra Wong, Philip Horan and Peter Morris met with Jason Guinasso, the board's legal counsel, for a closed session meeting. Trustee Tim Callicrate was not in attendance.
Guinasso asked Trustee Matthew Dent to leave the session due to an alleged conflict of interest. The AG report includes no information on the alleged conflict of interest.
At the meeting, General Manager Steve Pinkerton, Guinasso and staff members discussed with the board the impending initiation of a lawsuit against Governance Sciences Group, Inc.
Less than a month later, Pinkerton, acting on behalf of the board, initiated a lawsuit in the Second Judicial District of Nevada.
The board did not authorize the lawsuit in a public meeting, according to the report.
Nothing in the board's policies grant the general manager or general counsel to initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the board, according to the AG report, which does not address a public body's ability to delegate that authority. Rather, it notes the IVGID board did not have existing policies at the time allowing it to delegate that authority.
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Further, the retainer agreement with Guinasso's firm does not authorize the board's legal representation to initiate litigation, the AG report states.
"Here, the board violated the OML by taking action authorizing the initiation of the lawsuit during its attorney-client session," the report states.
"By using the OML's attorney-client exception to take action regarding the lawsuit, the board circumvented the spirit of the OML to take all action during open and public meetings during which members of the public may participate."
There are several issues with the AG opinion, Guinasso told the Tribune.
First, he argues Wright's complaint focused on an entirely different allegation. Wright's complaint, according to Guinasso, actually focused on a Nov. 15, 2017 meeting.
That issue, in which Wright alleged the board failed to properly notice a closed session meeting, was found to not be a violation, according to the AG's report.
"Their decision was outside the scope of what was complained about," Guinasso said.
Not true, Wright counters. He told the Tribune he filed amendments to his original complaint, which is why the AG's opinion addresses the April meeting. Wright said he filed the amendments as more information came to light.
Guinasso contends that, regardless of his first argument, the AG's interpretation of the board's policies is incorrect. He said at the time the policies did grant the general manager the authority to initiate a lawsuit.
The policy has since been changed in response to public input, Guinasso said. Now, the general manager is required to receive board approval before initiating a lawsuit. But at the time the general manager did have the authority to initiate a lawsuit.
This point was affirmed, Guinasso added, in the actual lawsuit in question. The district court rejected the same argument — that the general manager did not have the authority to initiate the lawsuit — in the court case.
The AG opinion is slated to be discussed during the IVGID board's meeting Wednesday, Feb. 6, as is required by the law. Due to the timing of the complaint, there are no repercussions from the decision aside from the requirement to have the issue appear on an agenda.
Guinasso said he plans to discuss the possibility of requesting judicial review, which basically equates to an attempt at having the opinion thrown out.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., at the Chateau, 955 Fairway Blvd.