Re-vote of IVGID officers likely after Open Meeting Law violation
This story has been updated from a previous version to indicate that the Aug. 26 board meeting agenda packet included a memorandum under the item in question, and it was in that memorandum that explained the agenda item as one that called “to reorganize the Board.” The agenda item itself, however, did not include that language.
The Bonanza regrets the error.
Visit ag.nv.gov/Publications/Opinions to download PDFs of Laxalt’s recent rulings, and to find archived rulings.
Also, visit bit.ly/1PmzOZG to view a video stream of the Feb. 4 IVGID meeting, and other board meetings.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The IVGID board will likely reconsider its vote of 2016 officers later this month in reaction to a Nevada Attorney General opinion that concludes the district violated the Open Meeting Law last summer.
According to the Jan. 25 ruling from Attorney General Adam Laxalt, IVGID did not properly inform the public prior to the well-documented and divisive Aug. 26, 2015, board meeting that saw trustees vote 3-2 to oust then-chairman Jim Smith, in favor of current chairwoman Kendra Wong.
After the vote — which saw Smith resign from office the next day — Crystal Bay resident Frank Wright filed an Open Meeting Law complaint.
Laxalt’s ruling found the Aug. 26 IVGID agenda “was not clear and complete” per Nevada law, as it failed to provide appropriate notice that the proceedings were to discuss “the reorganization of the board officers.”
Instead, according to a memorandum included within the full agenda packet from then-Trustee Bill Devine, who asked for the item to appear on the meeting agenda, the action merely called “to reorganize the Board.”
Therefore, the IVGID vote should have been considered void, according to the AG’s office, which informed the district it was to take corrective action at its Sept. 23, 2015, meeting.
However, that did not appropriately occur, as the board simply performed a “rubber-stamp of prior action and did not correct the violation,” thus leading to Laxalt’s ruling last month that IVGID took action in violation of the Open Meeting Law.
“The OAG warns the Board to ensure that its agenda topics are clearly and completely stated,” Laxalt wrote. “The Trustees may not stray into other matters of discussion not clearly and completely stated on its agenda. The OAG will take further action should this violation reoccur.”
IVGID Legal Counsel Jason Guinasso explained the situation before the current board during a meeting on Feb. 4, saying it boiled down to a matter of semantics, and that the “clear and complete” component of the Nevada Open Meeting Law isn’t clear itself since no legal definition exists for it.
“In our legal opinion, this agenda item clearly and completely put the public on notice that action could be taken … and that IVGID had satisfied … the Open Meeting Law,” Guinasso told the board. “We find it extraordinarily frustrating … that the Attorney General didn’t consider the board packet and memorandum from Bill Devine to be clear and complete.
“… What’s clear and complete appears to really be in the eyes of the beholder.”
Wright voiced his displeasure during the Feb. 4 meeting over the district’s handling of the issue. In a phone call this week, he expanded, saying Guinasso failed IVGID and taxpayers.
“The guy’s supposed to be able to protect the board, yet here he is coming up with a clear and complete argument to justify him getting out of what he can do as an attorney,” Wright said. “Look … how hard is it to say, ‘we are going to vote on reorganizing the board and elect new officers?’ Do you have to have a clear and complete rule or have a professional linguist for that to happen?”
Despite the “clear and complete” confusion, Guinasso said he understands Laxalt’s ruling, and that he will do everything he can to ensure the Open Meeting Law is followed, something he said his office has worked to do all along.
“Our record has not been tarnished by this opinion,” he said last week.
Moving forward, items will be placed on the board’s Feb. 24 agenda to fully discuss and reconsider the board’s vote in December to elect new officers for 2016 (something the board does every year).
Considering the Aug. 26 vote was deemed void by the AG’s office, Guinasso — who is running for Nevada Assembly District 26 this year — said December’s vote to restructure officers should have cured any wrongdoing by the board.
In related news, Laxalt’s office in late December 2015 ruled on two other Open Meeting Law complaints from Wright, tossing both out after concluding “it is clear there were no OML violations.”
In all, Wright — who’s run unsuccessfully for trustee in previous elections — has filed 7 OML complaints against the district with the state of Nevada since 2011, according to IVGID.
In that timeframe, until present day, a total of 16 OML complaints have been filed against IVGID; the others have come from residents Aaron Katz (8 total), his wife, Judith Miller (1), and Paul Olsen (1).
Aside from last week’s determination from Laxalt that found an OML violation, the only other time in the last five years a violation occurred was when former IVGID Board chair Ted Fuller was found to break the law three separate times based on his actions during two meetings that year.