State: Tahoe sewer district violated open meeting law
December 12, 2016
A Lake Tahoe sewer district is accused of violating the Nevada Open Meeting Law while discussing what turned out to be an unfounded ethics law complaint against a Douglas County employee.
The Nevada Attorney General's Office issued a Dec. 9 letter accusing Douglas County Sewer District No. 1 of violating the open meeting law in a half dozen areas.
Among those violations were the minutes where the board discussed getting someone to file an ethics complaint against then Planning Manager Hope Sullivan.
"While the board does not have supervisions, control, jurisdiction or advisory power over the Hope Sullivan ethics complaint, the ethics complaint clearly has implications with regard to matters with the board's supervision," Senior Deputy Attorney General John S. Michela said.
The ethics complaint was filed by Gardnerville chiropractor Don Miner with the help of the district's engineering firm, R.O. Anderson, allegedly in order to apply leverage to the county to get a gravel pit approved.
Its basis was that Sullivan purchased a home within sight of the pit, and did not disclose that when presenting the issue to the Douglas County Planning Commission. Sullivan recommended approval of the project with conditions. Planning commissioners denied the request.
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Sullivan did disclose the issue to her supervisor and the county's attorney, who determined state law did not require her to disclose the issue publicly. She was cleared of the complaint on Nov. 15.
On the other hand, the district was ordered to publicly disclose the open meeting law violations listed in the Attorney General's letter.
Among them are that the board failed to provide adequate notice that it would be deliberating on the proposed gravel pit in the East Valley.
Some of the violations involved performance reviews for its district manager by not specifying they were for action, or providing him with proper notice. The board also failed to call for public comment as specified on the agenda. The agenda also failed to list where it had been posted.
The open meeting law complaint was filed with the Attorney General's Office on July 18, two months after District Attorney Mark Jackson held a public meeting on the district's behavior.
Jackson alleged eight violations of the open meeting law, but the Attorney General determined that the district was not required to notify people who didn't work for it when it talked about them.
The entire issue arose when the sewer district attempted to get approval for a gravel mining operation in the East Valley in order to subsidize construction of new sewer ponds.
The proposal raised a political style campaign in opposition among residents along a proposed truck route.
The sewer district has also been the subject of a Legislative committee hearing to alter how it elects its members.
Members of the board represent the major casino properties at Stateline. Should a new law be approved in next year's Legislative session, district board members would be elected the same way as other county boards.