Attorney General: Incline Village board chair’s grant letter did not violate open meeting law
February 21, 2019
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The General Improvement District board did not violate the state's open meeting law when the board chair signed a letter supporting a grant application sent to federal transportation officials, according to the Nevada Attorney General's Office.
That opinion comes in response to a complaint filed by Aaron Katz.
Katz, a frequent IVGID critic who has been locked in litigation against the district for years, alleged Chairwoman Kendra Wong improperly committed the board to spending public funds outside of an open meeting through a letter dated July 6, 2018 to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The letter was in support of a grant request by the Tahoe Transportation District, which was seeking a BUILD grant for a phase of the State Route 28 Shared Use Pathway project.
Katz also alleged the board improperly discussed the letter of support at a July 24 trustees meeting.
In the letter, Wong wrote: "IVGID has $7.5 million available as a match for this BUILD grant to allow co-location and construction of the replacement 3.75-mile pipeline segment."
The issue riled some community members, who cried foul during public comment at board meetings. Several people wrote letters to the editor alleging Wong's action was illegal.
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The AG's Office, however, disagreed.
In the opinion, the AG echoed a fundamental point made by district officials in response to the criticism: the letter "did not legally obligate or commit the board to payment of any money and was not action of the board.
"Thus, Chairwoman Wong's execution of the letter of support without full board approval did not constitute an OML violation."
Further, the letter of support was consistent with the board's prior actions, the AG's Office wrote.
In January 2013 the IVGID board agreed to enter into an interlocal agreement with the transportation district to evaluate the feasibility of the co-location of the district's export pipeline.
In October 2014, after they determined the co-location project was feasible, the agreement was amended to allow for the primary design and an environmental analysis for the project, according to the AG's Office.
The amendment also considered the possibility that IVGID and TTD could reach an agreement for final design of the project. Further, IVGID had earmarked $7.5 million for the project. However, the board has not committed or contributed those funds to the project yet.
The board avoided a near OML violation at its July 24, 2018 meeting thanks to counsel Jason Guinasso, according to the AG's Office.
The near violation was due to the fact that the letter was agendized under "board updates" which did not allow for discussion. Following Wong's update, fellow board members started to speak on the subject.
The discussion was squashed when Guinasso intervened to remind the board that discussion was not permitted for the agenda item.
"Absent control of Mr. Guinasso, an OML violation would likely have occurred," the AG's Office concluded.