Settlement reached in lawsuit seeking records from school board trustees

The offices of the Douglas County School District are located in the historic Minden School.

The offices of the Douglas County School District are located in the historic Minden School.

After four hours of testimony on Wednesday, a settlement was reached on a records lawsuit against the Douglas County School District.

The lawsuit was filed in August seeking to learn if trustees Susan Jansen, David Burns, Doug Englekirk, and Katherine Dickerson were deliberating on a group chat during public comment at board meetings and outside of meetings after it was observed that Jansen was on her phone during a May 16 meeting.

The plaintiffs, consisting of former School Board Trustee Robbe Lehmann, former Douglas High School principal Marty Swisher and HR Director Joe Girdner and parent Dean Miller, accused the four of deliberating through private communications, which would be a violation of the Nevada Open Meeting Law.

According to the lawsuit, a public records request revealed written communications between trustees, including emails and texts from personal accounts, discussing the Jan. 10 selection of Jansen as president and Englekirk as vice president of the board, the firing of former superintendent Keith Lewis, the firing of Maupin, Cox & LeGoy and hiring of Joey Gilbert Law Firm, and revealed the newly elected trustees were subject to outside political influence.

Seven witnesses were scheduled to testify during the meeting, including Jansen, Burns, Englekirk, Dickerson, Lewis, Douglas County School District IT Director Michael Roth, and Virginia Starrett, but only Jansen and Lewis had a chance before a settlement was made.

All four school board trustees had sworn and notarized affidavits that they’d produced all the emails requested in the petition. However, the petitioners pointed out that an email provided by Dickerson referred to emails from the other three trustees that were not produced.

“It was in the best interest of both parties to resolve this, produce everything that was requested and move forward,” said Gilbert.

Richard McGuffin, who represented the plaintiffs, agreed.

“The petitioners are pleased with the settlement that was reached Wednesday. “We believe it is in the best interest of the district and community moving forward. The Petitioners did not envision or have any desire for litigation when they submitted their NRS 239 public records request. That said, the petitioners chose to pursue transparency in government and the settlement that was reached ensures the same.”

As part of the settlement, a search will be performed by Roth, the school district will be responsible for paying attorney costs for the petitioners to be determined and approved by the board, trustees are required to perform another thorough search from a mutually agreed third party and the district will provide additional training to the trustees regarding Nevada’s open records law.

Once the settlement agreement is approved and payments are made the case will be dismissed.

Jansen, Dickerson and Burns were elected almost a year to the day after the school board voted to lay to rest the issue of critical race theory raised in the district after multiple public meetings.

A book used in a professional development class for teachers was cited by proponents on an outright ban sought in 2021.

Two town hall meetings were conducted in the fall of 2021 which saw 110 people participate, including candidates for state and federal office.

The meeting drew national media attention that focused on the debate in Douglas County.

Englekirk is the only sitting school board trustee facing an opponent from Zephyr Cove resident Erinn Miller.

With the withdrawal of Gardnerville Ranchos resident Steve “Papa” Pruitt, Gardnerville resident Antoinette Marie Casselberry and Gardnerville Ranchos resident Melinda Gneiting will meet in November for  Linda Gilkerson’s seat.


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