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April 23, 2014

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Settlement reached in ethics complaint against CCSD officials

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Paul Takahashi

Clark County Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky and Clark County School Board President Carolyn Edwards address the media after the seven-member board unanimously appointed him as the leader of the nation’s fifth-largest school system on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

The state Commission on Ethics on Wednesday accepted settlements from two Clark County School District officials accused of misusing public resources to promote the passage of a tax increase for schools in 2012.

Clark County School Board President Carolyn Edwards and Associate Superintendent Joyce Haldeman admitted to illegally using district resources to campaign for a ballot initiative last year that would have raised property taxes to help pay for school renovations, maintenance and construction. That tax initiative — known as Question 2 — was overwhelmingly rejected by voters last November.

The complaint against Edwards and Haldeman was filed in June by Michael Silbergleid, president of public relations company The SilverKnight Group.

Edwards violated state law when she used her work email, maintained by the School District, to ask a district employee to send information about the ballot question to parents and supporters in the district. Haldeman also broke the law when she asked the district's purchasing division to handle and inventory campaign literature. Employees drove district vehicles and used the district’s warehouse to store the materials in October.

In a statement issued by the School District Wednesday afternoon, Edwards said she did not willingly commit the illegal act.

“The law requires trustees to advocate for the interests of students,” Edwards said. “However, state ethics law also says that public officials cannot use public resources — even as simple as sending an email — to advocate on ballot measures.”

School District Chief of Staff Kirsten Searer issued a similar statement on behalf of Haldeman.

“In this case, there was no cost to the taxpayer, as all expenses were reimbursed,” Searer wrote. “As we go forward, our Office of Community and Government Relations is creating guidelines that will clearly outline activities that are allowable and those that are inappropriate the next time we place a question on the ballot.”

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