School District Confirms Lawyer Hired to Conduct Two Investigations

WCSD attorney Neil Rombardo.
WCSD attorney Neil Rombardo.

The Washoe County School District has hired an outside attorney to conduct two investigations into allegations against the district. The first is an investigation into an allegation that Assistant Principal Trina Olsen, which WCSD illegally fired last year, according to an external arbitrator, made against her former boss Area Superintendent Lauren Ford.

“With regard to the Ford investigation, Chief General Counsel, Neil Rombardo, provided explicit instructions to only investigate Ms. Olsen’s single allegation that Area Superintendent Ford returned marijuana to a student,” said WCSD spokesperson Megan Downs.

Olsen, in response, called that mind-boggling.

“I’ve never said Lauren Ford returned drugs,” she told ThisisReno. Documents show that Olsen has repeatedly claimed that she reported what was said to her by somebody else, not that she made that claim.

Trina Olsen. Image: Ty O'Neil.
Trina Olsen.
Image: Ty O’Neil.

“I had a duty to report,” she explained. “I expected a fair investigation, and instead they came after me.”

While working as an assistant principal at Hug High School, another faculty member was said to have given back marijuana to a student after it was confiscated from the student.

Olsen said she asked the administrator if she gave drugs back to a student and was told, “yes and Lauren has done the same thing.”

Olsen said that even during arbitration it was established that she was reporting second-hand information by another faculty member, who allegedly confirmed that’s how the sequence of events occurred.

The district, however, used what Olsen reported as one of many reasons to fire her; in this case, making false claims against an administrator. The arbitrator noted only Olsen was singled out for discipline by Ford and Ford’s then boss, Area Superintendent Roger Gonzalez.

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But the incident, in which a Hug High administrator was documented to have given back marijuana to a student, is not a part of the investigation. The school district did not respond to a question as to why.

Superintendent Traci Davis and Board of Trustees President Katy Simon Holland denied that drugs were ever given back to a student.

Superintendent Traci Davis and Board President Katy Simon Holland. Image: Ty O'Neil.
Superintendent Traci Davis and Board President Katy Simon Holland. Image: Ty O’Neil.

“Drugs were never returned to either of these students, and the arbitrator’s decision is even confused over this issue contradicting itself in parts,” Simon Holland and Davis wrote earlier this year. “The district may have considered lesser discipline for students who may have possessed minuscule amounts of substances that may or may not be drugs, who immediately recognized the problems with their actions, apologized, and after the fact, provided information to law enforcement.”

A person involved with the incident said this was false.

Olsen insisted that Hug’s dean of students admitted under oath, during arbitration, to giving back the student’s marijuana. The teacher who found the weed in the student’s wallet added that it amounted to more than just flakes. A redacted screengrab of the student’s disciplinary documentation showed the student was ultimately suspended for marijuana possession.

“It was a nugget with a recognizable odor,” the teacher said. “I’m 100 percent sure the dean gave the student back the marijuana—no question.”

A Second Investigation

School District spokesperson Downs said that WCSD will also have the same attorney investigate Olsen’s newest whistleblower complaint against WCSD.

“It only makes sense to have the same firm conduct these two investigations because they are related,” school attorney Neil Rombardo added. “The community deserves an answer on these issues as soon as possible, and thus, we are not going to allow complainants to add issues as the investigation proceeds.

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“We also discussed that once the district hands everything over to [the attorney], the Office of General Counsel shall be screened from the investigation to avoid any actual or perceived conflicts of interests.”

This story is developing and may be updated.

Bob Conrad
About Bob Conrad 1122 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.