Updated November 12, 2021 - 7:21 am
Two Clark County School Board trustees have sent a cease-and-desist letter to Sinclair Broadcast Group and its local affiliate KSNV-TV urging the removal of a “false and misleading political advertisement” paid for by the Clark County teachers union.
The letter from School Board President Linda Cavazos and Trustee Lisa Guzman, dated Wednesday, urges the station to pull the spot paid for by the Clark County Education Association and warns they could seek damages if it’s not removed.
“If the advertisement continues to air, we will immediately seek a temporary restraining order in the District Court against your network,” they wrote. “We will also seek monetary damages to be proved at trial.”
The advertisement references a Nevada Commission on Ethics complaint against Guzman that the teachers union filed early this year and states that Guzman “used inside school district information to benefit her employer.”
It also states Cavazos is “accused of bullying and creating a toxic work environment” — apparently referencing allegations by ousted Superintendent Jesus Jara and Trustee Katie Williams — and labels Cavazos and Guzman as “two untrustworthy school trustees.”
In their letter to the station, Cavazos and Guzman said that the ad “blatantly misrepresents” their conduct and that the union has spent thousands of dollars of their members’ money “attempting to spread lies” about them.
Guzman is assistant executive director of the Nevada State Education Association, a rival teachers union. CCEA broke ties with the state association and its national parent organization in 2018, which resulted in multiple lawsuits.
She told the Review-Journal via text message Thursday that the “ethics issue” had been settled, pointing to an advisory opinion from the ethics commission on June 2 recommending that an unidentified “public officer” — presumably Guzman — should abstain from votes that would benefit members of her organization.
As a result of that opinion, “I abstain from voting (on issues that pose potential conflicts of interest) and have taken measures to ensure there cannot be future complaints,” she said.
She also inferred that union politics were behind the original complaint.
“My employer has not benefited from my trustee position,” Guzman said. “I think that there are better things CCEA can spend their political action money on especially as we head into an election year where my trustee seat is not up for election.”
The Nevada Commission on Ethics’ office was closed Thursday due to the Veterans Day holiday and couldn’t verify the status of the complaint.
In a Thursday statement to the Review-Journal, CCEA said: “We stand by the content in the ad and more to come.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group and KSNV’s management could not be reached for comment Thursday, and Cavazos declined to comment.
Three Clark County School Board seats are up for election in 2022 — those currently held by Cavazos, Irene Cepeda and Danielle Ford.
It’s unclear why the teachers union is focusing on Cavazos and Guzman in the advertisement.
Union representatives have criticized the board as dysfunctional at recent meetings, but leaders also have previously assailed Jara for his handling of school reopenings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stephen Bates, a professor in UNLV’s Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies, said the station could decide to stop airing the ad if it finds the trustees’ argument has merit, but added that it’s unlikely a court would step in and grant a restraining order.
“Going to court isn’t very likely to get them what they want,” he said.
The letter from Cavazos and Guzman comes after the board voted 4-3 last month to terminate Jara’s contract. Cavazos and Guzman both voted to end the contract.
The School Board meets next week to consider several items related to the contract, including a request by three trustees for an item to consider rescinding its termination.
It also may address Jara’s allegations that he has been subject to a hostile work environment.