The State Bar of Nevada has closed its investigation of Clark County School District’s head attorney, Carlos McDade, who was under scrutiny because two school officials broke state law while acting under his legal advice.
“Any professional misconduct in this matter could not be proven by ‘clear and convincing evidence,’ which is the standard of proof,” wrote Assistant Bar Counsel Phil Pattee in a letter mailed Jan. 17 to complainant Joe Spencer.
McDade advised then-School Board President Carolyn Edwards and Associate Superintendent Joyce Haldeman during the 2012 election that their bond campaigning actions were legal, according to both their Nov. 20 settlements admitting guilt to the Nevada Commission on Ethics.
The State Bar has all the evidence it needs, asserted Spencer in his pointed response, emphasizing how the settlements with the commission clearly spelled out McDade’s advice promoting actions found to be illegal.
“I find it almost funny that you say there is not ‘clear and convincing evidence,’ ” Spencer wrote.
In settlements with the commission, Edwards and Haldeman conceded breaking state law by using taxpayer resources to campaign for the district’s ballot question. The district sought to increase property taxes by 21 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, generating an estimated $669 million over six years for school improvements and construction. It failed after 66 percent of voters rejected it.
“We’re grateful this matter was resolved quickly,” said district spokeswoman Melinda Malone in response to the State Bar’s decision. “As we discuss future bond initiatives, the district will collaborate with the Legislature and other government entities to provide additional clarity regarding the laws that govern acceptable methods of communicating with parents and the public.”
In October 2012, Edwards directed a district employee to send an email blast seeking volunteers to campaign in support of the district’s ballot question.
McDade approved the email’s contents and that it could be sent to constituents, according to Edwards’ settlement.
Haldeman authorized transporting, storing and dispersing pro-Question 2 campaign materials using district trucks and staff. McDade told her that such actions were legal if the political action committee supporting Question 2 reimbursed the district for the $648 cost it incurred. State law prohibits public employees from “requesting” or causing a governmental entity “to incur expense or make expenditure to support or oppose a ballot question.”
The commission agreed not to punish Edwards and Haldeman because, in good faith, they sought advice from McDade, who advised them that their actions were legal.
If the people who broke the law aren’t responsible and neither is their attorney for telling them to take actions that broke the law, “then who in the hell is responsible?” Spencer asked.
McDade and the two school officials no longer may be under the microscope, but four other Clark County School Board members are under investigation by the commission for emails similar to Edwards’ email, which were sent by their assistants in the 2012 election.
Spencer filed those complaints too and said he realizes his crusade won’t endear him to the district.
“I’ll be the outcast,” said Spencer, who previously served on several School District committees and was vice president of the Santee School District Foundation in California before moving to Las Vegas. “But change needs to be made. It starts with one.”
He created a Facebook page, CCSD Students Deserve Better, to give constituents a place to voice their complaints and assemble.
“People need to speak up, they really do,” he said. “That’s the only way change is going to happen.”
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.