DCSD violates open meeting law
Douglas County school board members violated open meetings law when it hired a Gardnerville principal in May, according to Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa.
The violation occurred when Douglas County School District trustees appointed interim Principal Cissy Tucker to a permanent post at Gardnerville Elementary School. Del Papa asked the board to reconsider, saying actions taken that day could be void because of inadequate public notice.
“The issue herein is whether the agenda for May 16, 2001, complied with the Nevada Open Meeting Laws,” Del Papa wrote in a letter to the district. “The broader concern is that the generic term ‘Personnel Report’ and other generic categories have been used and continue to be used by the Douglas County School District in violation of the Nevada Open Meeting Laws.”
The attorney general’s office became involved after a complaint from Val Sonnemann, secretary of the Parent/Teacher/Student Organization. Sonnemann said she would have attended the board meeting had she known action would be taken to hire the principal.
“I, and many other parents, found out after this school board meeting in May, that they had determined the principal,” Sonnemann said. “Why not let your parents know so we can contribute our comments? As a parent, as a volunteer, I’m concerned.”
Tucker was one of 15 candidates considered for the position by a district hiring committee. Superintendent Pendery Clark recommended the board hire Tucker in an addendum distributed to board members shortly before the meeting.
“The school board evidently does this quite often, these day-of addendums,” said Sonnemann. “They add them to the school board packets the day of (the meeting), but the public doesn’t see them. I, as a parent, would have really liked to attend that meeting because I have concerns about the principalship at Gardnerville Elementary.”
In a July 10 letter, Del Papa said the “generic listing” of personnel items violated state law but said the violation appeared unintentional. A second letter, dated July 26, asked the board to revisit its actions taken in May.
“The purpose of this requirement is based upon the fact that actions that were taken at the May 16, 2001 meeting may be considered void” under Nevada’s open meetings law, Del Papa wrote.
Superintendent Clark, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Trustee George Echan, who represents the Lake Tahoe area, said the May 16 agenda listed items the same way they’ve been listed for years.
“The important thing is there was no intention by the board,” Echan said. “This is the way the agendas have been described for some time. This was not a carved exception to the way business is done. This is the way business always has been done.”
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