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September 1, 2014

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Ethics Commission denies petition of Clark County School Board President Edwards

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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 denied the petition to dismiss a complaint against Clark County School Board Chairwoman Carolyn Edwards, accused of misusing government resources to promote election passage of a tax increase for schools.

The case will go to a hearing before the commission at a later time for development of further facts.

Commission co-chairman Gregory Gale said Edwards’ intent was “honorable” in using the school email to urge residents to support the tax increase. But he said the commission must determine whether Edwards violated the law.

Edwards, through her lawyer state Sen. Mark Hutchinson, asked the commission for the hearing to be open to the public rather than choosing the alternative, to close the doors.

A complaint was filed with the commission by Michael Silbergleid that Edwards directed a secretary to send an email to residents to support the temporary 21 cent property tax increase to build new schools and fix old ones. The issue was defeated at the election last November.

Hutchinson said the email was for information and not for Edwards’ personal gain. There was no willful violation, he told the commission. And Edwards cleared it with legal counsel of the school board.

Edwards was a member of the school board at the time but has since been elected its president.

There is a conflict in the law that tells school board members they must maintain the schools. Yet there is a law that public officials cannot use government resources to promote or oppose a ballot question.

It took only 30 seconds of the time for the secretary to transmit the email, he said.

Gale of Las Vegas said the commission has heard only one side of the issue.

“We should advance this to a hearing or allow the parties to work out a stipulation whether there has been a violation of the law,” he said.

Chairman Paul Lamboley said this case presents both legal and factual issues. And other commission members agreed.

Hutchinson said there were no material facts at issue. But the six members of the commission said more facts need to be resolved before they make a decision and what, if any, the punishment should be.

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