Board takes action on records violation lawsuit

We Deserve a Better Board protesters gather outside of Douglas High School on Tuesday before the meeting.

We Deserve a Better Board protesters gather outside of Douglas High School on Tuesday before the meeting.
Photo by Sarah Drinkwine.

Allegations that School Board Trustees Linda Gilkerson, Yvonne Wagstaff and Carey Kangas violated Nevada Open Meeting Law during the April 9 meeting was brought before the school board on Tuesday.

The complaint was made after the April meeting alleging that when the three-trustee majority, at the time, had a discussion with their attorney, came back to the board, then voted against a settlement agreement.

At issue is whether the taxpayers should be responsible for majority’s legal bills if they are found negligent in providing public records.

The settlement is the agreement made during the Miller v. Douglas County School District case that went before Douglas County District Court Judge Thomas Gregory, accusing trustees David Burns, Susan Jansen, Katherine Dickerson and Doug Englekirk of violating Nevada’s records law. A hearing in the case is still scheduled for June 4-6, according to the court clerk’s office.

Kendra Jepson of Joey Gilbert Law said legal counsel was advising that the action made during the April 9 meeting should be voided and to revisit the settlement agreement.

“It appears as though all trustees have a conflict in this matter because the three trustees have intervened in the litigation with their counsel,” said Jepson.

She suggested the trustees could either submit the issue to the ethics commission and wait for an opinion on how to best move forward or delegate the action to the acting superintendent pursuant to NRS 241.0357 and allow her to take action regarding the settlement agreement.

“At this moment there is a conflict amongst all of you, and if we are going to do it, we should submit it for an ethics, basically, opinion (on whether it was a violation),” said Gilbert. “If you want to vote on it, then vote on it, but I don’t think it’s in the best interest of this board to create another problem.”

Trustee Wagstaff claimed the three did not deliberate amongst themselves in regard to the Writ of Mandamus, but that their attorney presented them with options, which they individually considered before returning to the meeting.

“I knew what I wanted to do, so I came back, sat down and made the motion,” said Wagstaff.

Jepson said there also was a settlement agreement made by the three that would remove Burns as president and Dickerson as clerk, which could result in the elevation of other trustees.

The three trustees read a statement from their attorney Sharla Hales before Gilkerson called for a vote on the motion.

“I’d like to disclose that there’s a settlement proposal term that could result in getting a board office but that doesn’t require us from abstention.”

The motion which was “to not approve the settlement agreement and to have counsel go back and negotiate more favorable terms for the district,” passed 3-0. 

Three more agenda items in relation to the Miller Vs. Douglas County School District matter were addressed and discussed during Tuesday’s meeting. 

The first was whether to waive the confidentiality claimed in invoices of all the law firms who have represented the district in the writ of mandamus.

Gilkerson made a motion “that the board waives the attorney client privilege for the invoices of Joey Gilbert Law and all other law firms who have represented the District regarding Miller Vs. DCSD to direct the superintendent to redact items as she deems necessary and make available to the public time statements for matters related to Miller Vs. DCSD and we do this for transparency.” The motion was seconded by Wagstaff.

“I’m not into waiving any attorney client privilege, because you don’t know what’s coming,” said Burns, “and I want to know what’s there before I waive anything, which we don’t know because we are not finished with this.”

Gilbert advised that the board not waive attorney client privilege.

“We have provided as much information we believe we are allowed to,” said Gilbert. “Under the law it’s up to you, but that’s my recommendation.”

The motion failed with Burns, Jansen, Dickerson, and Englekirk against it.

Next, the board addressed the matter of legal counsel being obtained to represent the district and Wagstaff made a motion “to authorize the superintendent to retain legal counsel to represent Douglas County School District for matters related to the Writ of Mandamus.” Trustee Kangas second it. The motion passed 6-1, with Jansen against.

The board discussed obtaining legal counsel to represent the four-trusted majority, Burns amended the motion to state “Trustees may authorize the superintendent to retain legal counsel to represent trustees Englekirk, Jansen, Burns, and Dickerson for matters related to the Writ of Mandamus.” Taking out the part stating “with reservation of rights such that these trustees will not be indemnified and must reimburse the district for legal fees if they are found to not have acted in good faith.”

Dickerson who said she was “confident in her situation, but would not agree to that,” seconded the amended motion, which passed with Burns, Dickerson, Englekirk, and Jansen in favor.


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