HCSD nepotism policy passes 5-2

WINNEMUCCA — Having discussed the issue at three different meetings, the Humboldt County School District Board of Trustees voted to adopt an official nepotism policy on Tuesday (Oct. 11) after a short discussion.

Trustees Andrew Hillyer and Glenda Deputy voted against adopting the policy

In a second vote, the board voted unanimously to put the policy into effect next school year.  Anyone wishing to seek an exception must go before the school board by July 1, 2012 to discuss the matter.  Exceptions to the policy will be made on a majority vote.

The policy will prohibit a HCSD employee from being supervised and evaluated by a relative within the third degree of consanguinity.

Consanguinity is a blood relative; affinity is a relative by marriage.

Trustee Ann Miller, who was a former administrator, was in favor of the policy and discussed how difficult it would be to supervise and evaluate a close relative.

However, she felt the policy should not extend to sports, such as a parent coaching a son or daughter, and the board should retain the authority to make exceptions.

As he has before, Hillyer spoke out against  the policy.  Not only does there not appear to be a problem, he argued, but the policy was too far reaching.

He commented, “I don’t think it will do our district much good.”

Employees are responsible for reporting nepotism conflicts to the district office.

 

HUMBOLDT COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

BOARD POLICY

REGULATION ON NEPOTISM

 

Except as hereinafter provided, no individual may be employed as an employee when the performance of such individual would be directly and immediately supervised and evaluated by any relative of such individual within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity, nor shall such related employees be assigned to positions which have a fiduciary responsibility to one another which could be compromised by such familial relationships.

 

A person so related, as specified in the above paragraph, may be hired or assigned when authorized by a majority vote of the Board of Trustees upon the written request of the supervisor seeking to hire or assign such individual where some special, substantial and convincing reason or such peculiar circumstances make such hiring or assignment reasonable and not otherwise detrimental to the Humboldt County School District.

Should a relationship change occur which would result in a violation of this regulation, it is both employees’ responsibility to report this change to Human Resources within thirty (30) calendar days.  The school district then reserves the right to transfer one of the employees to another department or assignment.

SELECTION COMMITTEES

Employees who feel they would have a conflict of interest by serving as a member of a selection committee, should not serve.  A conflict of interest is any circumstance which would improperly influence a person to depart from the objective and impartial discharge of his/her responsibilities as a member of a selection committee.  A conflict of interest may arise from any number of situations, such as a committee member being a relative  of a candidate, close personal friend, former business associate, etc.  If an individual is unsure if a conflict of interest might exist by serving as a member of a committee, s/he should consult with the Assistant Superintendent.

If another member of the selection committee or any other person who has knowledge of the composition of the committee believes there may exist a conflict of interest, that person should notify the chairperson of the committee or Assistant Superintendent as soon as possible.

Nothing herein shall be construed to authorize employment of any individual in violation of NRS 281.210.

Legal Reference

NRS 281.210:  Miscellaneous Provisions & Prohibitions – Officers of state political subdivisions and University and community college system of Nevada prohibited from employing relatives; exceptions; penalties.

Board votes to proceed with demolition of Double Duty Duds building

WINNEMUCCA — The Humboldt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Monday (Oct. 3) to proceed with the demolition of the commercial building at Fourth and Baud Streets.

The building was formerly home to Double Duty Duds. It was donated to the county last year and was received with the intention it be used to benefit the Winnemucca Rural Fire District.

Addressing the commission were Fire Chief Ron Schrempp and Assistant Fire Chief Torrey Sheen.

Sheen said after much discussion the fire district board determined it would be cost prohibitive to bring the building up to current codes and/or convert it into something the fire department could use.  The floors in the building are wooden and would not support the weight of parking large trucks there.

Additionally, sitting vacant it represents something of a liability for the county.  For example, someone could get in, play with matches, and the place would burn up — maybe injuring the person playing with matches.

Because the building technically belongs to the county, the county will put out bids for the demolition.  However, the cost of demolition will be reimbursed by the WRFD.

Looking to save some money on the project, there was some discussion of approaching the Landfill Committee for a waiver of the fee for C&D waste into the landfill.

Nepotism policy before school board remains bogged down in discussion

WINNEMUCCA — The Humboldt County School Board has voted to table the adoption of a nepotism policy until for further consideration could take place. The matter has been before the board at least three times, but there has yet to be consensus among the board members.

Trustee Ann Miller was not at the Tuesday (Sept. 27) meeting, and the board felt it important she be there to voice any concerns she may have before the vote was taken.

Nepotism is the favoritism shown to friends or relatives and usually occurs in the workplace. Although there’s not much the board can do about favoritism among friends, which is usually the greater problem, members of the district staff noted, a nepotism policy would address the issue of one relative supervising another and conducting performance evaluations.

Superintendent Mike Bumgartner presented similar policies adopted by districts across northern Nevada; though, there was some disagreement about how closely those policies were followed. The superintendent noted the importance of the district protecting itself from legal liability in advance of an actual problem.

He added with the possibility of merit pay in discussion, the need for a nepotism policy was imminent.

Trustee Andrew Hillyer observed there have not been complaints about nepotism to date and there doesn’t appear to be a problem.

He thought a solution could be found that did not involve breaking up teams that appear to be working well together.  He added the policy should give the board some flexibility in handling matters where one relative was supervising another – such as exists at Grass Valley Elementary School where the principal is married to a teacher.

The board went back and forth on the issue of who should evaluate the performance of those employees who are technically being supervised by a spouse or close relative.

As was noted, it would be unfair to the supervisor to be held accountable for entire school – except one teacher who was being evaluated by someone brought in for that purpose.  Additionally, the site administrator would best know about the daily performance of his or her teachers.

On the other hand, if teachers receive pay raises based on merit, problems could arise if he or she were being evaluated by a spouse who would benefit financially from a potential merit increase in pay.

That scenario is a hypothetical one as the decisions on merit pay have not been determined and may not happen.

The issue of nepotism is especially challenging for those in small, rural districts where there are few chances for advancement and  as happens in small towns, everyone seems related to everyone else.

The meeting was attended by staff members from Grass Valley Elementary School – who may be the first to be impacted if the nepotism policy is adopted and other steps aren’t taken to protect those relatives/spouses already in a supervisory role.

In addition to the immediate concerns, long-term implications of the policy were expressed by GVES teacher Dawn Lucas (shown above, left), who has ambitions of becoming an administrator someday — ambitions that could be complicated by a nepotism policy due to her many connections in the district.

Chelsea Mendiola (shown above, right), who expressed her ambition to become athletic director at Lowry High School someday, worried that a restrictive nepotism policy would send teachers originally from Humboldt County to other districts. Her opinion was it would be better to have policies that encouraged Humboldt County young people to return home and teach after college.

Grass Valley couple before commission on roaming dog complaint

WINNEMUCCA — A couple frustrated with the lack of appropriate response from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office over the issue of roaming dogs in Grass Valley, took their complaint to a higher source and appeared before the Humboldt County Commissioners seeking tougher enforcement of county ordinances.  The couple appeared before the commission on Monday (June 6).

While the commission has no authority over the sheriff’s office, they did pass a resolution to ask Sheriff Ed Kilgore to take action to resolve some of the issues.

Sheriff Kilgore did not respond to the opportunity to comment on some of the issues raised by the couple.

Charles and Cindy White told the commissioners some of their neighbors simply do not contain their dogs, which roam the neighborhood and enter the White’s property where they dig up the flower beds and dig through the trash.

Additionally, they can’t take a walk, walk their own dog, or ride their horses off their property without being chased by dogs.

The couple attempted to resolve the problems with their neighbors, but the situation became volatile.  The couple alleged they have been screamed at, their pets threatened, and Charles White, who is black, was allegedly subjected to racial slurs.

The couple taped at least one of the encounters, which showed just how aggressive at least one of the neighbors was.  On another occasion a neighbor allegedly threatened to kill the couple’s horse right in front of the animal control officer.

On another occasion,  the couple found an arrow had been shot through their shed wall, and Cindy White said it was her belief the neighbor shot at the White’s dog that was in its own yard and contained.

The couple tried to work with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control officer, but that intervention did not result in change.

Cindy White said the animal control officer was being too nice and not enforcing ordinances that should be enforced through the citation process.

Charles White added, “It shows nothing’s going to happen.  That sends the wrong message.”

White commented, “We have to get some restrictions. My neighborhood’s not safe enough for me to take a walk with my dog.”

Commissioner Tom Fransway said, “These folks have the right to enjoy a peaceful life and so does everybody else in that area.  I think it would be appropriate for this body to request Sheriff Kilgore to ask animal control to investigate the situation.”

Concerned Citizens leader identifies himself

WINNEMUCCA — The leader of an anonymous group calling itself Concerned Citizens of Humboldt County identified himself during Tuesday’s meeting of the Winnemucca City Council.

Fred Baryol went before the council to suggest more thorough meeting minutes and to complain about the unavailability of meeting recordings. At that time he announced he was the person heading up CCHC.
Baryol is a familiar face at county and city government meetings — having been associated with anti-landfill activism in connection to the proposed Jungo Rd. landfill.

SPJ readers may remember the CCHC were the group behind an anonymous poll sent to candidates and elected leaders. The subject of the poll was primarily the Jungo Rd. landfill and development.

Bengoa-Lutz appointed to RPC

WINNEMUCCA — The Humboldt County Commission appointed an engineer with a background in planning to the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) last week to fill one of two vacancies on that board. Sandy Bengoa-Lutz is a short-term planner with Marigold Mine and was among five candidates who applied for the job.

The RPC has had three resignations since February. In a short time period Stephen Nye, Joyce Cox, and Rich Brown all resigned from the embattled board. The RPC has come under intense public scrutiny over actions they took in 2007 in connection to the proposed Jungo Rd. Landfill.

Bengoa-Lutz grew up in Humboldt County on a Kings River ranch. After graduating from high school she studied civil engineering at UNR, which included the study of landfill designs and the government regulations that go along with it. She worked for a time with an engineering firm in Sparks before getting married then moving back toHumboldt County.

She told the commission her job with the engineering firm gave her many learning opportunities  — including a project where she designed a subdivision that included sewer and water treatment facilities.

During the interview process, Commissioner Mike Bell asked her how she responded to controversy.

Bengoa-Lutz replied she preferred to avoid confrontations; however, she has attended supervisor training through Marigold that has helped her manage conflict – with special reference to conflicting personalities.

She expanded and said she is the type of person who prefers to listen and get all the information before making up her mind. She later added she thought it was important to keep her own opinions out of RPC decisions, which should be based on facts and credible information.

When asked by Commission Chairman Chuck Giordano about the possibility of the commission having the final say on conditional use permits on projects like the proposed Jungo Rd. landfill, she responded and expressed her doubts that CUPs would come before the commission on a limited basis. That is, she felt it would be all or nothing.

During discussion on the appointment, the commissioners noted there was a good group of candidates but Bengoa-Lutz stood out due to her education, work history relevant to the planning commission, and for the way she articulated the answers to the questions.

The commission and Winnemucca City Council appoint members on a rotating basis. The council appointed Giovette Cassinelli to replace Nye. The commission appointed Bengoa-Lutz, and the city council will appoint the last vacancy.

The applications of the four other candidates will be forwarded to the council. The candidates were: Bill Douglas, Michael K. Meagher, Theresa Mavity, and Robert (David) Baker.