District Moves to Fire Davis, Davis Hires Attorney

Washoe County School District administration building. Image: Carla O'Day.
Washoe County School District administration building. Image: Carla O’Day.

UPDATE (June 25, 2019): WCSD responded yesterday, Monday, to questions referenced below. Those were published in a new story today: https://thisisreno.com/2019/06/district-doubles-down-defends-move-to-fire-davis/

The Washoe County School District on Friday night posted dozens of pages of evidence supporting what they are calling Superintendent Traci Davis’ gross negligence. A letter was also published notifying Davis of a July 1 special meeting to consider her employment with the district.

The posting, and a news release sent Friday night, contradict what WCSD officials were telling the news media and public last week.

Trustee Katy Simon Holland.

I asked Board President Katy Simon Holland on Tuesday what the precipitating factors were that prompted Davis to go on leave.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“You are 100% clear you have no idea why Traci Davis has taken leave at this time?” I repeated.

“All the information I have is that she’s taking leave for personal reasons,” Simon Holland said. “You have as much information as I do about that.”

I asked if anybody else at the district had information.

“I wouldn’t know who has information about it,” she replied.

She was, in fact, the one who gave Davis a letter dated June 13 notifying her of a special meeting to consider her character and professional competence.

I asked Simon Holland again later in the week. She said she was unaware of any legal communications between Davis and the district. Comments released in a Friday press release show Simon Holland quickly changed her tune.

Traci Davis
Traci Davis,
Washoe County
School District
Superintendent

She announced that she had “reviewed the substantial evidence received by the School District, and after Ms. Davis’ lack of timely response, I feel the Board needs to discuss her communication to the district and this evidence, in an open public meeting and possibly take action. These were reasons why I didn’t share specifics and details of our situation at the time.”

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When I spoke with Simon Holland on Tuesday, the district’s legal counsel Neil Rombardo was in the room, as was the district’s Chief Communications Officer Irene Payne. Rombardo authored the June 13 letter to Davis as well as the amended letter published Friday.

“Our legal counsel hoped that discussions with Ms. Davis’ legal counsel would lead to a quick and reasonable outcome with Ms. Davis for the benefit of the District,” Simon Holland said. “During that personal leave of absence when the District was expecting a response, she and her legal counsel failed to comply with the most basic requests for a timely response, and it became clear that the District was possibly being harmed by their actions.”

I spoke with the former head of Nevada State Ethics Commission and asked if misleading the public with contradictory statements is an ethics violation.

It’s not. Ethics rules for public officials tend to focus on personal economic benefit. Lying to the public, said former Ethics Commission Executive Director Caren Jenkins, “is not good practice.”

But it’s not illegal or considered an ethics violation in Nevada statutes.

Davis Secures Legal Counsel

Attorney Bill Peterson, who also represented former Superintendent Pedro Martinez in his 2014 fight with the district, confirmed Saturday that he is representing Davis.

He said they will be issuing a response to the district early this week. While documents posted by the school district mainly contain communications related to Byron Green and David Lasic — who were fired early last week — and Jenny Hunt — who has pending litigation against WCSD — the district is claiming that correspondence demonstrates Davis was negligent.

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“The allegation is that Davis deliberately leaked information or allowed it,” Peterson said. “That did not occur.”

The publishing of selected documents from discovery in Hunt’s case also reveals that the district may have known about Lasic, in particular, providing confidential information to Hunt more than a year ago. The district did not respond to a request for comment about this point by the time of publication.

Green was shown to have sent from his personal email confidential memos, written by now-Acting Superintendent Kristen McNeill, to Hunt in April of 2017.

Kristen McNeill, deputy superintendent, Washoe County School District.
Kristen McNeill,
deputy superintendent,
Washoe County
School District

Why fire Davis now?

“That’s a very good question,” Peterson replied.

And, because legal counsel Rombardo, and external counsel Anthony Hall — who is defending the district against Hunt — are named in those communications, why are they still actively involved?

“That’s also a very good question,” Peterson added.

Comment was sought from district officials on Saturday. No reply was received by the time of publication.

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Bob Conrad
About Bob Conrad 1067 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.

7 Comments

  1. I’ve said it in several editorials published by the RGJ over the past months…..the Washoe County School District needs a Performance Audit (not just a financial to see if the books balance). The school district is over-staffed and wastes money. Audit their
    Contractcing procedures; audit their transportation program; audit the credit cards used by staff; audit the petty cash accounts used by many schools…….Every school district should be required to undergo a Performance Audit every 5 years by the State of Nevada. The current Superintendent was hired at an inflated salary and ridiculous benefits based on her qualifications which you can bet were also inflated in her resume. For a school district this large, you would think it could attract better quality candidates.

    • Yes: And Ms. Davis’ incredibly inflated salary & benefits will now be the *starting* point for any future candidate’s negotiations…So true: Why can WCSD not attract better qualified candidates?

  2. I’d like to see the amounts of money squandered over the past decade by the WCSD board on bad hiring decisions, legal fees, etc. be translated into how much money that could have been in teacher salaries, school supplies, computers, and building improvements. This Is Reno–could you do the math?

  3. Although I am new to Reno – it seems like the WCSD leadership is more the problem than the people they hire.

  4. Any member of the educational system lying to the public unless ordered to do so by a superior should be terminated. What kind of example are they setting for the teachers and especially the students?

  5. It is going to take some doing to ferret out the truth, or some semblance of truth, with this mess. Keep at it. I want to know and I assume others in our community want to know too.

  6. Wow, what a mess. Great job WCSD leadership. The attorneys probably have a hard time remembering who they are defending!!

Comments are closed.