IVGID trustees vote down public hearings of GM, board chair
March 29, 2013
EDITOR'S NOTE: Aside from Wednesday morning, the IVGID board met for its normal twice-monthly meeting at 6 p.m. at The Chateau. Among several agenda items, three dealt with next steps in the hiring of the district's new general manager. Due to the Bonanza's press deadlines, coverage of the night meeting could not make this week's print edition. Look to the April 3 edition for a recap story.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In a split decision, the IVGID board of trustees Wednesday morning did not approve a special meeting agenda that called for public hearings concerning the job performance and ethical conduct of General Manager Bill Horn and board chairman Bruce Simonian in reference to recent email communication between the two.
Simonian and trustees Bill Devine and Joe Wolfe voted down the agenda — which included a third item to review the performance of IVGID legal counsel Scott Brooke — while trustees Jim Smith and Jim Hammerel were in favor.
Among the 11 residents and former trustees who offered public comment after the vote, some lambasted the board for scheduling the meeting and potentially airing the issue in public, while others praised Smith and Hammerel.
"This meeting is not about … IVGID business. It's about egos, and 'look how important I am,'" said former trustee Gene Brockman, who urged trustees to "check your egos at the door."
Incline resident Len Simon shared a similar view.
"You represent this community … and not your personal agendas," he told the board. "Your job is to represent the community … and I wonder if you've forgotten that. It appears to many of us that you have."
Outspoken Incline resident Aaron Katz — who ran for election in 2012 — disagreed, saying IVGID's been broken for 40 years, and Smith's and Hammerel's votes were one step toward "cleaning up this community."
"I applaud the new trustees … for expressing their views. It's different than the old guard," he said.
Crystal Bay resident Frank Wright, who also ran for election in 2012 and has been at odds with many IVGID board decisions for several years, agreed.
"This isn't just Aaron Katz and Frank Wright, it's the community now … and now we have two new board members who have the integrity to look into this," Wright said. "These blind copy emails and interactions by board members have cheated the public out of fair and impartial thought processes by our elected officials."
Others, including former trustees Tim Callicrate and Gail Krolick, said that while they feel the issues are worth looking at, doing so in a public meeting isn't appropriate.
"I think the basis for several of these questions does have merit, but I do hope they're addressed in a more civil manner," Callicrate said. "… This is the ugly part of politics … and we don't need to be discussing this in a manner that is disrespectful."
The blind copy email issue was first exposed at the board's Feb. 27 meeting. According to previous reports, Hammerel on Feb. 25 sent an email to Horn regarding a district matter. When Hammerel eventually received an email response on the same matter from Simonian, Hammerel said he felt "offended" because Horn had blind copied Simonian without Hammerel's knowledge.
"I'm all about transparency … and I see this as very disingenuous," Hammerel said at the Feb. 27 meeting. "For a private conversation between Bill and I … to also be listened to by the chairman, I found that to be very offensive."
The situation led to a tense exchange among trustees, in which Smith and Hammerel pressed for answers from Horn, eventually resulting in Simonian calling a recess and saying the situation was escalating out of control.
At the meeting, Horn said it's been a practice of his since becoming interim general manager in 2001 to keep the board chair — to whom he directly reports — informed of conversations about district matters with trustees.
"It's always been my practice to make that the person I'm directly responsible to know what's going on," Horn said in a March 7 Bonanza story. "Every since I came here in 2001, the chairman has always been kept in the loop. And it's never changed."
In that same story, when asked why he chose to blind copy Simonian on the Feb. 25 email, Horn said, "I cannot recollect why I blind-copied Trustee Simonain … I can't remember."
Also, when asked if his practice has been to blind copy in the past, Horn said, "my memory isn't good enough to remember every time whether I did or didn't."
As for the third item from Wednesday morning concerning Brooke, Smith had previously requested the attorney supply invoices for legal services for the current 2012-13 fiscal year, along with a copy of his contract, according to meeting's agenda. The items were included in the meeting's packet.
"Pre and Post Election, I have had many community members ask me about our legal representation effectiveness and costs to the District," Smith said in an email included in the packet.
After Wednesday's meeting, each of the trustees were asked why they voted for or against the agenda. Below is a summary of their comments:
Wolfe: "I believe that this was a witch hunt that should have not have been done in public that could have been handled much better behind closed doors. It's two members of the board who are pushing their own personal agenda … It's unfortunate that this happened. It shouldn't have happened."
Hammerel: "I think that the board, and more importantly, the residents deserve to know what has been happening. They deserve to know whether this was a one-time offense or if this has been going on for 11 years, and they need to know the repercussions of that. This was not a witch hunt, this was not out to defame anyone, this was to get to the bottom of exactly what has been happening and why and the legalities of that and make corrective action if necessary."
Smith: "I tried to have the meeting in a closed session, and was told that we couldn't, that it had to be in an open session. I requested it, (Brooke) told me it had to be open, and he actually gave me direction on how to move forward with a meeting. I was told by fellow trustees that they wanted to have it, and I'm surprised that they decided they didn't want to anymore … I campaigned for integrity, honesty, transparency, and I expect to work in that arena, and if I'm involved in something that isn't transparent, and if it doesn't have integrity, then I have trouble getting along with that."
Devine: "The three agenda items, I felt like had already been addressed. The first two had already been addressed by our counsel's opinion that there was no violation of the Open Meeting Law, so the way that those items were written, I felt like that had already been addressed. And the third one … there were no specifics as to why we would need to review that. (Brooke's) contract is reviewed on a regular basis every year … I'm aware of him being asked of his invoices and billing, and he provided that … so I felt that there was no reason to go forward with the agenda."
Simonian: "I had spoken to both Jims … and said … 'you guys have to come together as a board and move forward as far as developing the budget, taking care of the district' … They agree, and then they don't agree, and then they still show up, and I'm just like, this needs to be taken care of … in some other venue besides out here in the front … I think it doesn't serve them, and it doesn't serve the community."
After the meeting, Horn, too, was asked for his reaction.
"I think it follows that the board is responsible for setting the agenda, and contrary to comments that are made, Bill Horn doesn't set it," he said. "Bill Horn presents it and the board approves it. That's the statement that they made, 3-2."