ethics complaints filed by Michael Silbergleid, a citizen activist and
former member of the ballot opposition committee against the school
tax increase vote during the 2012 election.
During an interview conducted on RadioTribune.com with
Silbergleid, the discussion centered on the 2012 vote and the fact
that the school tax increase failed. During that meeting Silbergleid
discovered that I received an email from school board member Carolyn
Edwards asking those emailed to call a CCSD number to volunteer to
advocate for the ballot item. Silbergleid asked me to forward to him
the email that I received. Upon receiving it, he discovered that
Edwards was using CCSD facilities and staff to advocate for the ballot
item. Under Nevada state law that, if proven, would be illegal.
Silbergleid filed two complaints with the ethics commission. One
against current School Board President Carolyn Edwards and one against
Associate Superintendent Joyce Haldeman.
During televised news broadcasts at the time of the 2012 election
viewers saw employees of the school district and buildings of the
school district used in organizing the campaign for the tax increase,
organizing the campaign by passing out flyers. Parents familiar with
the school district recognized that the telephone number presented on
the Edwards email was that of the school district public relations
department, the employees of which were apparently enlisted to direct
callers on how to volunteer and at which school district facilities
the campaign was being organized. Apparently, the ethics commission
was either unaware of these facts due to failure of its investigation
or due to a lack of a public hearing presenting both sides.
The other possibility is that they chose to ignore it.
During the prior hearing on Edwards’ actions alone, her attorney,
State Senator Mark Hutchison, was allowed unlimited time to state
(spin) Edwards case on her behalf before the commission. The normal
procedures of the Commission would have eventually included having the
Commission’s legal staff present the other side of the case. However,
in this case, this was not done. After closed door negotiations with
the CCSD attorney representing Haldeman and an attorney from
Hutchison’s office representing Edwards, what the Commission did do
was to have their staff read a part of the settlement that included
numerous statements taken directly from Edwards’ attorney’s unopposed
statements. The commission then offered several rationalizations
including that it is ‘hard to get good people to run for office.’ The
finding of the commission stating that only a small, reimbursed amount
was spent, appeared to accept the Edwards’ assertion that the only
cost was the few minutes it took Edwards’ secretary to send the email.
As a major key to the Commission’s explanation as to why they decided
not to discipline the pair was Edwards’ claim that her attorney gave
her a legal opinion that her behavior was OK; one would have expected
that the opinion evidence would have been released to the public.
However, neither the Commission nor Edwards, in a follow-up press
release, disclosed the proof or said whether the Commission simply
decided to accept her claim.
The ethics commission, in a unanimous vote, found that Edwards and
Haldeman broke the state law prohibiting the use of public dollars to
lobby for a campaign. Edwards and Haldeman admitted to breaking state
ethics law, but not intentionally.
Apparently the Commission did not find the mobilization of a
300,000-person taxpayer-funded organization with a billion dollar
budget for a ballot item a problem significant enough to levy a fine.
Or perhaps they did not understand the extent of the operation yet.
Prior to the issuance of the Commission’s statement, another citizen
complaint was filed against school board members Deanna Wright and
Erin Cranor for participation in the same type of behavior.