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District Moves to Fire Davis, Davis Hires Attorney

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
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: http://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.”

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.

“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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