Library investigation prompts open meeting complaint |

Library investigation prompts open meeting complaint

A contract was signed in September for a $30,000 investigation into the Douglas County Library.
Kurt Hildebrand

A Reno firm will conduct a $30,000 investigation into the events that led up to the inclusion of #Black Lives Matter in a proposed diversity statement that led to an Aug. 8 demonstration in Minden.

The firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart is contracted to conduct the investigation, according to a document recorded Sept. 15.

According to the document, the investigation should conclude around Nov. 6, though it allows for extensions if additional investigation should be required.

On Friday, The Record-Courier learned that an open meeting complaint was lodged with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office as a result of the Aug. 25 meeting where the Library Board of Trustees approved the investigation.

Under the contract, the law firm will conduct an objective investigation.

“The investigation will gather background facts regarding relevant directives, the effectiveness of communication surrounding the controversy associated with the publication of the diversity statement, the fulfillment of job duties ad responsibilities by those Library staff involved, the circumstances that led to the escalation of tensions and conflict with members of the public and other Douglas County departments.”

The investigator will prepare a report on a timeline of events, and a conclusion on whether Douglas County code, Nevada law, policies, procedures, departmental policies or collective bargaining agreements had been violated.

The investigator will meet with the library trustees, if the chair of the library board and Human Resources Director Wendy Lang agree.

Library Board Chairwoman Kate Garrahan signed the agreement on Sept 8, attorney Molly Rezac signed the agreement on Sept. 9 and County Manager Patrick Cates signed it on Sept. 11.

Rezac is the attorney responsible for advising the county, according to the agreement.

The agreement was signed within two weeks of the 3-2 approval by the Library Board of Trustees on Aug. 25.

At Thursday’s county commission meeting, a retired marketing executive was appointed to fill out the term of Library trustee Lisa Foley, who resigned over approval of the investigation.

Neither the statement, nor the subsequent Aug. 8 protest and counter-protest were raised during Thursday’s selection.

Six-year Gardnerville resident Heather Martin Maier was picked from seven applicants for the position.

Martin Maier told commissioners that she grew up in Maine, where she spent much of her time in the local library.

Former Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle and former Douglas County School Board Trustee Sharla Hales, both Minden residents, asked the board to rescind the action.

“The expense of the outside third-party investigator apparently could cost as little as $25,000 or it may be somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000,” Doyle wrote. “The varying estimates show how premature commitment to this investigation is. The library’s budget for the current fiscal year does not include an item to pay the expenses of this investigation.”

Doyle argued that there is nothing new to investigate and that the expense would be a waste of money.

“The pertinent facts are known and readily confirmed from public sources,” he said. “They have been reported extensively by the media. All the information needed to follow the recommendations explained at the end of this letter is literally ‘under the noses’ of the Trustees.”

Doyle, who retired in 2006 after serving as district attorney for 16 years, suggested the board take up the diversity statement in a public meeting, something that has never happened.

“Rescind the authorization of the investigation, revise the draft diversity statement and then take definitive action on the statement in a public meeting after listening to the public,” he said. “Put this controversy behind us.”