About a month before a $17 million budget deficit forced Clark County secondary schools to cut $98 per student from their budgets, Superintendent Jesus Jara expensed a $2,409 Peloton exercise bike through his health and wellness allowance, according to an ethics complaint filed last week with the state.
The complaint, filed by Steve Sanson of the Veterans in Politics group, accuses Jara of being “oblivious to the problems of the students and staff” by expensing such a bike — arguing that with a $320,000 yearly salary plus other perks, he could afford to pay for it himself.
Jara’s contract, approved last May, allows him to be reimbursed for expenses related to health and wellness that are not covered by district insurance for a maximum of $5,000 each year.
The expense form attached to the complaint notes that the reimbursement, filed in early May, falls under that “wellness benefit” clause.
Sanson said he plans to file another complaint against School Board President Lola Brooks, who he claims approved the reimbursement and hid the cost from other trustees.
“There is no possible way that the trustees of the school district intended that a health and wellness clause in Jara’s contract could mean that he could purchase for his personal use, as his property, a $2,500 bicycle,” the complaint states.
The complaint alleges that the superintendent violated state law by — among other things — using governmental time or property to benefit his personal or financial interest.
A district spokesperson said in a statement that Jara learned about the complaint on Saturday.
“These are baseless allegations and he will submit a written response to the Nevada Ethics Commission as and when appropriate,” the statement reads.
Brooks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But as anger among district employees flowed through on social media over the weekend, Brooks initially said the claim makes “zero sense.”
“I have no knowledge of such a purchase and the only thing the board president signs for the superintendent are requests for days off and travel,” she wrote on Twitter.
Brooks later corrected herself and clarified that she did sign off on a reimbursement, but said she didn’t originally remember that she did so.
‘A vague recollection’
“I don’t recall the specific instance clearly but I have a vague recollection of it,” she stated in a series of Tweets. “To be clear, the board president still doesn’t have control over where this item appears in purchase orders, has no way to hide this from the public in the manner implied, and has no reason to do so.”
Anger over the exercise bike builds on bad feelings in the wake of the budget deficit, which the district originally planned to close by cutting all middle and high school deans. Facing strong backlash from the administrators union, Jara later reversed course and spread the cuts on a per-pupil basis throughout all secondary schools.
Meanwhile, just before the first week of school, teachers all across Clark County begged for school supplies as part of a national #clearthelists movement that urged donors to buy needed items for classrooms off of Amazon “wish lists” created by teachers.
Sanson also filed another ethics complaint against Deputy Superintendent Diane Gullett earlier this month that challenges the costs associated with trips she took to Boston, New York, Orlando and Washington, D.C. — claiming in general that they were a waste of taxpayer dollars. The district also said in a statement that Gullett “absolutely denies the baseless allegations” and will submit a written response.