School district officials, ethics commission reach settlement

A state investigation originally planned to culminate Wednesday in a full hearing and subpoenaed testimonies instead wrapped on a whisper.

The Nevada Commission on Ethics decided Wednesday to accept settlements from two Clark County School District officials accused of spending taxpayer money to campaign for a ballot question in 2012 to increase property taxes for school improvements.

In a unanimous vote and without debate, the commission found that Clark County School Board President Carolyn Edwards and Associate Superintendent and lobbyist Joyce Haldeman broke the state law prohibiting the use of public dollars to lobby for a campaign. However, the commission issued no discipline. It said both officials made a “single, unwillful violation” with the good intention of providing for Clark County students and coming away with no financial gain.

“There are a lot of challenges faced by public officials,” Commission Chairman Paul Lamboley said.

Edwards and Haldeman, not present Wednesday, were represented by their lawyers. The School Board hired law firm Hutchison & Steffen at a $330 hourly rate for Edwards. The district’s most current estimate puts Hutchison’s legal fees at $30,000. District lawyer Carlos McDade represented Haldeman.

Edwards’ actions date back to Oct. 20, 2012 when she directed a district employee to send an email blast seeking volunteers to “distribute door hangers and yard signs to registered voters encouraging them to support Question 2.”

In the 2012 election, the district posed a ballot question to county voters, asking them to increase property taxes by 21 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, generating an estimated $669 million over six years for improvements at 40 schools. The ballot question overwhelmingly failed after 66 percent of voters rejected it.

Haldeman used district resources to transport, store and disperse campaign materials supporting the passage of Question 2. She said the materials belonged to the School Improvement Committee, a political action committee created by four former Nevada first ladies to support the ballot question. After word got out that Haldeman was using district resources to help the PAC, she said the PAC would be billed $648 for those expenses. But the law states the government cannot incur an expense, reimbursed or not, in supporting the ballot question.

In the settlements, Edwards and Haldeman agreed they broke the law by spending taxpayer resources to campaign in these single instances but said they did it unknowingly, thinking they were within the letter of the law because of their lawyer’s advice. The commission agreed.

“In fact, the Ethics Commission stated that my actions were ‘a well-intentioned, good faith effort,’” Edwards said in a written statement Wednesday.

Haldeman also issued a written statement praising the settlement and noted that in her case, “There was no cost to the taxpayer, as all expenses were reimbursed.”

But it seems these pair of “single, unwillful violations” were just the beginning of something more, which only a hearing could have uncovered, said Martin Dean Dupalo, president of the Nevada Center for Public Ethics, a nonprofit that monitors the actions of Nevada politicians.

He pointed to evidence suggesting there was a campaign effort run out of Haldeman’s office at district headquarters. In Edwards’ email, she directed those interested in volunteering for support of the ballot question to contact the district’s Community and Government Relations office, headed by Haldeman, at 799-1080.

“The email raises more questions,” acknowledged Commissioner Tim Cory on Sept. 18 when the Commission decided to organize an investigatory hearing.

But the Commission that decided Sept. 18 to seek answers to those questions ended up backing down, asking nothing, said Dupalo, calling the settlement “light” on the two school officials.

Chairman Lamboley explained the reason for settlement Wednesday after the quick and unanimous votes.

“This is an important case,” Lamboley acknowledged. “But important cases don’t mean they have to go to a hearing” for justice to be served.

He argued it’s in the “best interest” of the district officials and the public to come to a resolution, costing taxpayers a lot less and teaching a lesson to Clark County school officials.

That lesson was more of a free pass, Dupalo said. As long as government officials claim they didn’t know and their lawyer said it was OK, they’re absolved, he said.

“I find that problematic,” said Dupalo, who wasn’t surprised based on the commission’s track record of settling.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like