Board takes no action on lobbyist | RecordCourier.com
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Board takes no action on lobbyist

Michael Schneider

At a special legislative workshop meeting of the Douglas County school board, trustees voted not to take any action on a request by the county commission to help pay for a lobbyist on behalf of Douglas County at the state Legislature.

Board president Cheri Johnson first made it clear to the rest of the board that the commission didn’t ask the board to split costs with them, nor did they mention any dollar amount.

Superintendent Pendery Clark, who attended the commission meeting and spoke to the commission on the issue, told the board that the commission voted to put a $50,000 cap on the amount that could be paid to the lobbyist, but didn’t request any specific dollar amount from the school board.

“I have a real hard time paying for a lobbyist out of school funds,” said vice president Mary Bennington. “We can do it (lobby) ourselves.

“I’ve testified. I’m concerned about our opponents with $300,000 and lobbyists. I’d like to be the one up there fighting. I think they’ll listen to us.”

Trustee Don Forrester agreed with Bennington but said he didn’t like refusing to help the commission.

“The commission has always been supportive of us,” he said. “It’s tough to abandon them in their time of need. But it’s tough to spend school district money on a lobbyist. I can’t see hiring a lobbyist.”

“Philosophically, I can’t support using education money for a hired gun,” said Trustee David Brady.

Bennington said the school board has always been active lobbyists due to Douglas County’s proximity to Carson City and board members with the time to lobby.

“We can make ourselves available to the commission as lobbyists,” said Johnson, explaining a way they could help the commission without using district funds for other purposes. “We’ll be the mouse that roars.”

All the school board members then agreed to make time to lobby the legislature, but a member of the audience disagreed with this position.

Terry Clodt, a long-time Valley resident, said Tahoe is turning into a rich man’s area.

“They (The Tahoe Citizens Committee) want to control it,” said Clodt. “They have $300,000 and I think even more than that in their fund. Why shouldn’t we have a lobbyist there. This is a county-wide situation, not just a school board situation.

“I’ve been there, I’ve lobbied. They’ll be times you won’t be there but a lobbyist would be. However, the Legislature loves to see elected people there, but you must protect the interests of the county and guard against anything that could adversely effect the county.”

TCC chairman Mike Jabara, who attended the meeting, said the difference between the TCCs lobbyists and the proposed Douglas County lobbyist is the TCC’s is paid for out of private funds.

“The money being spent is private contributions, not only from the casinos, but also from other business and the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce,” said Jabara. “We’re trying to form a group that will get something done. Isn’t that what democracy is all about?

“I’m concerned that the commission is using public funds for a lobbyist. The Lake contributes 40 percent to that fund.”

Jabara then agreed with recent published comments of Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, who complained about the commission’s desire to hire a lobbyist.

“The best lobbying is done by elected officials,” said Jabara.

Next, the board addressed a request by Jabara, as was also made to the commission, to provide the TCC with a report as to specifically what the school board spends money.

“We don’t have the staff to do a report for the TCC,” said Johnson. “We should write them a letter saying our information is public record.”

“We need to know what the gloom and doom looks like to make it a win-win,” said Jabara. “If we do it, it will be suspect.”

“You need to give the numbers to us,” said Clark. “We’re not the initiators in this situation.”

“It’s frustrating to us,” said Forrester. “We’re trying to be responsive to the Lake needs and there are still people who want to split the county no matter what we do.

“We can’t just sit back in silence and let you take pot shots at us.”

“I think what’s being done for the Lake by this board is appreciated,” said Jabara. “I know in my heart that you are all well-meaning, dedicated people who are trying to do the best job you can.

“This is about control over the destiny of our children. At our (TCC) meetings, children are mentioned a lot.”

Jabara said the issue should come down to a vote of the affected people at the Lake.

“If the Lake as a whole decides we want to have their own school district, then why can’t we?” asked Jabara.

“How can you say we’re not affected?” said board clerk Diane McCoy. “We are affected.”

The members of the board then decided they would need another workshop to further discuss these issues. Another workshop was set for March 27.