Republican candidate for Nevada governor, Dr. Fred Simon, filed a lawsuit in November against the Washoe County School District, its board of trustees and board President Angela Taylor.
Simon said Taylor shut down the board’s work session on Sept. 28 and violated Nevada’s open meeting law.
“Approximately 10 seconds after he began his comments, which appeared to be the beginning of a statement that was critical of President Taylor and possibly Superintendent McNeill, Dr. Simon was repeatedly cut off and interrupted by President Taylor,” his lawsuit notes. “President Taylor’s disruption, prohibiting Dr. Simon from making any comments critical of herself or Superintendent McNeill, stating ‘No, no personal attacks please,’ then caused a disruption in the room as community members started yelling at Taylor for interrupting Dr. Simon and failing to stop the time clock while doing so.”
Simon is alleging “serial and repeated violations” of Nevada’s open meeting law. He is also protesting that clapping and applause was also curtailed during the meeting.
“Parents have every right to speak their mind and criticize the Chair and Board Members for their failings or arrogant, dismissive behavior,” Simon said in a press release about the lawsuit. “Parents are sick and tired of school board Trustees that are implementing policies that actually harm their children.”
He alleges “President Taylor further interrupted Dr. Simon’s public comment by attempting to enforce a restriction on clapping or applause that was not set forth in the [meeting agenda] in violation of [state law],” according to the lawsuit.
It is common at public meetings for officials to direct public commenters to direct their comments to whole boards and to refrain from addressing individual members.
The Nevada open meeting law manual indicates public bodies can enact rules to ensure “orderly conduct of the public meeting and ensure orderly behavior” by those in attendance.
“The Office of the Attorney General believes that any practice or policy that discourages or prevents public comment, even if technically in compliance with the law, may violate the spirit of the Open Meeting Law…” the manual states.
“A public body’s restrictions must be neutral as to the viewpoint expressed, but the public body may prohibit comment if the content of the comments is a topic that is not relevant to, or within the authority of, the public body, or if the content of the comments is willfully disruptive of the meeting by being irrelevant, repetitious, slanderous, offensive, inflammatory, irrational, or amounting to personal attacks or interfering with the rights of other speakers,” the manual maintains.
School district officials said they cannot comment on pending litigation.
Simon, a trauma surgeon, earlier this year accused Gov. Steve Sisolak of practicing medicine without a license, claimed “there was massive voter fraud” in Nevada last year and said there is “deceptive fraud of vaccinating children.”
Watch the exchange below:
Disclosure: Simon is represented by attorney Stephanie Rice, who also represents This Is Reno. Rice would not comment on the litigation.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.