The Secretary of State on Thursday challenged John McKenna's right to run for another term on the Carson School District Board of Trustees, saying the trustee is barred by term limits from doing so.
McKenna is one of three local officials, all school board members, now being challenged by Secretary of State Ross Miller. The issue was raised by Washoe School Board member Jonnie Pullman's opponent, who pointed out Pullman has served the maximum allowable 12 years since term limits took effect in 1996.
The third letter was sent to the Pershing County Clerk's office challenging Todd Plimpton's run for another term on that county's school board.
Elections Deputy Matt Griffin said he and Miller talked with their deputy attorney general and agreed the state constitution bars those officials from running for another term of office because the law took effect Nov. 27, 1996, when the Supreme Court canvassed the election which made term limits part of the Nevada Constitution.
That means term limits was in effect when those officials took office January 1 1997, he said.
But McKenna, a Carson CPA who is seeking his fifth four-year term on the board, pointed out that interpretation contradicts an official Attorney General's opinion issued in May 1996 which said the 1996 election wouldn't count toward term limits because the election itself took place before term limits were enacted with the high court's official canvass.
Since the effective date of the petition would be November 27, 1996, the term limitations will not apply to affected officials elected in the 1996 general election," the opinion signed by then-Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa concluded.
McKenna said he's not fighting term limits, just that he needs to know what the law is.
"I'm going to ask the attorney general's office why there is a difference between the two opinions. Let us people who just want to run for local positions know what the law is," he said.
He sent an e-mail to Griffin charging that the attorney general and secretary of state should have resolved the issue months before the filing period began and advised people in his situation.
"My running and possible election is not the issue. The issue is the grossly negative effect your secret last-minute actions have on those who want to run for office but are unsure. Your playing incompetent games has made the already difficult process of getting citizens to run for local office much more difficult," McKenna charged.
Griffin said he wouldn't respond to "emotionally-driven comments."
"Our function is to enforce what's in the constitution," he said.
Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover said the challenge has been turned over to the district attorney's office, which is deciding whether to take the issue to court. The process, according to Griffin, is that the clerk submits any challenge to the DA, who takes the issue to court for a ruling on whether the name should be on the ballot or not.
DA Neil Rombardo could take the issue to court if he agrees there is probable cause McKenna is violating the constitution. Or he could find there is no probable cause and drop the matter.
Glover said the situation is complicated by the fact today is the final day for candidates to file for office and McKenna was, as of the close of business Thursday, unopposed. If no one files and McKenna's name is removed, that would leave the office vacant and the remaining members of the school board would appoint to fill the position.
Glover said his office needs an answer as to whether McKenna's name is on the ballot or not as soon as possible because ballots must be printed.
By comparison, the Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes said their interpretation of the constitutional limits allows legislators to run again this year even if they have 12 years of service because, unlike other officials, lawmakers take office the day after the election.
That means those elected in 1996 were already in office when the Supreme Court canvass put term limits in place that year , and the 1996 elections don't count against them.