The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees will not be taking up the possible censure of one of its members during its Oct. 12 meeting—as was planned.
The censure of Trustee Jeffrey Church was already put off once. It was initially intended to take place during the Sept. 28 regular meeting of the board.
“I believe this postponement will provide more time for Trustee Church and other members of the Board to review the supporting materials and will allow for a more thorough and constructive conversation with all Trustees,” said board president Angela Taylor. “Additionally, it will provide a more transparent process as members of the community will also have a better opportunity to review the materials.”
The supporting materials include 200 pages of redacted correspondence along with a four-page list of alleged policy violations.
The censure discussion is being put off because the district has now started an independent investigation concerning the residency of former Trustee Jacqueline Calvert—who resigned on Sept. 14 after it was discovered that she had moved outside of District F, which she represented.
In a statement made to This Is Reno, Taylor said, “The agenda item related to the discussion and possible censure of Trustee Jeffrey Church will be rescheduled pending the conclusion of an independent investigation regarding ‘who knew what, and when’ surrounding the residency of former Trustee Jacqueline Calvert.”
Taylor said after the Sept. 28 meeting of the board of trustees Superintendent Kristen McNeill consulted with her and directed the independent investigation into Calvert’s residency be conducted.
The Gunderson Law Firm will conclude its investigation after interviewing Trustee Church, who is unavailable before Oct. 12, Taylor said.
The district did not release details on the full scope of the investigation.
“Currently, all supporting material can be found here. Once a new date and time have been scheduled, the materials will be posted publicly to the appropriate meeting,” district officials said.
Church says censure is to punish him for expressing varying viewpoints
In a letter to WCSD legal counsel Neil Rombardo on Wednesday, attorney Stephanie Rice, who represents Church, said the proposed censure is an attempt to punish him for “expressing various points of view with which the majority of his colleagues disagree.”
“Such retaliation grossly violates Trustee Church’s First Amendment rights,” she added.
A number of the violations listed within the supporting materials for the censure include taking positions adverse to the district and board or making disparaging or critical remarks about the board, its members or the district.
Church’s position on the board doesn’t lessen his protected free speech rights, Rice noted in the letter. Several cases were cited as precedent, each suggesting government representatives should have wider latitude to express their opinions on policy matters.
“If official punishment for disagreeing with the political majority is not a violation of the First Amendment, I honestly don’t know what is,” she wrote.
[Disclosure: Rice also represents This Is Reno.]
This story was updated to include details of a letter sent to the WCSD by Church’s attorney.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.