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School board's use of subcommittee violated meetings law

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School board's use of subcommittee violated meetings law 08/10/98 NEVADA--The Nevada Attorney General's office concluded that the Washoe County School…

School board’s use of subcommittee violated meetings law

08/10/98

NEVADA–The Nevada Attorney General’s office concluded that the Washoe County School Board violated the state open meeting law in March by using a subcommittee to make selection recommendations that did not comply with the law, by taking formal action on items that were not specified on the meeting agenda and by failing to record that action in the minutes.

In a July letter to the board’s attorney, Deputy Attorney General Greg Salter warned that future violations would lead to legal action.

Although the subcommittee members were informally appointed and included only three trustees, less than a quorum of the full board, it is still a public body because it was formed to provide advice and recommendations to the board, Salter wrote.

If it were otherwise, “public bodies would be encouraged to break up into little unofficial groups and do business in the shadows, stepping into the sunshine to perfunctorily approve what has already been decided, which would be completely contrary to the interest expressed” by the open meeting law that “public bodies take their actions and conduct their deliberations in the open.”

Following a complaint made by the Reno Gazette-Journal, the attorney general’s office opened an investigation into a late March meeting at which the board discussed hiring a firm to help in the search for a superintendent and authorizing that firm to advertise the opening at a national conference.

The meeting’s agenda called only for a “discussion of the qualifications/qualities for superintendent.” Although board members did not take a formal vote, they did spend about 45 minutes discussing the selection process and reaching an agreement about hiring the search firm. (Letter from Deputy Attorney General Greg Salter to the Washoe County School Board attorney)