Public be damned

And here you thought we had trouble with our local school board more than two years ago?

Their actions during the Carolyn Ross era pale in comparison to the Washoe County School Board trustees, which, in its attempt to “fire” the superintendent, so gallantly fell on their swords in committing public humiliation.

We are not in a position to praise or deride the tenure of Pedro Martinez, Washoe County’s embattled superintendent, but to question the public-be-damned attitude of six trustees.

Superintendents such as Martinez and other appointed officials like a county manager or city manager are public officials; therefore, a board hires the person in public, reviews the job performance in public and, if necessary, fires the person in public.

Washoe County trustees, though, became bush league in their approach and dismissed Martinez at a workshop where any action to be taken against him for job performance was not on the agenda.

After so much outcry, WCSD Board President Barbara Clark then issued a media release stating the board would discuss Martinez’s employment, who was now placed on a paid leave of absence, and then late last week, the trustees pulled an agenda item for last night’s board meeting to discuss the superintendent’s employment status after his lawyers became involved.

The trustees remain tight-lipped, refusing to talk to the public or Reno media about their action.

Three current board members who served on other government boards should have known better. The six trustees who decided to relive Martinez of his duties must know that there is a lengthy process in place before discussing the superintendent’s job performance.

A school board, more than any other group, seems to be under more scrutiny than other boards. At least, that has been our experience in Churchill County.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, is a staunch advocate of First Amendment rights and said Washoe County violated Nevada’s Open Meeting law by not posting a public notice to discuss Martinez’s status.

Said Smith, “They clearly violated the Open Meeting Law. They are trying to bend their actions and contort them in order to justify what they did out of the eyes of the public, knowing full well that their responsibility under the law was to hold an open meeting.”

Boards must be transparent in how they conduct their business. While the superintendent reports to the trustees, the trustees ultimately report to the public that elects them.

The Nevada Attorney General’s office has been asked to sort this debacle, and if the six WCSD trustees did — in the eyes of the AG’s office — commit such an egregious nose-thumbing act at the Open Meeting Law, then each one of the trustees should be fined to send a message to other elected officials across the state that they have a duty to be transparent and accountable to those who elect them.

Editorials written by the LVN Editorial Board appear on Wednesdays.


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