Attorney General’s office finds Lyon commissioners didn’t violate law
June 12, 2007
The Nevada Attorney General’s office has rejected former Lyon County Manager Donna Kristaponis’ open-meeting law complaint against the Lyon County commissioners.
In a written opinion, the office applied two Nevada Supreme Court rulings in determining that the meetings and conversations among the commissioners before the Feb. 15 meeting when Kristaponis was fired did not necessarily constitute a violation of the law.
Kristaponis said the ruling didn’t come as a surprise to her, and that she does not plan any kind of appeal.
“There were some factual things in it that bothered me,” she said, “I respect the law, but I also respect common sense.”
Kristaponis had alleged a violation of the state’s open meeting law because of an item on the Feb. 15 meeting agenda to hire an interim manager, and that Commissioner Bob Milz had given a statement to the Nevada Appeal published Feb. 13 indicating he knew in advance who would replace Kristaponis.
Kristaponis had interpreted the statement as evidence of improper meetings among commissioners.
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The attorney general’s office said the investigation found that Milz and Commissioner Don Tibbals met with Lyon County District Attorney Bob Auer on Feb. 6. Auer said the meeting was held to review county issues since he was recently elected.
During the meeting Milz brought up the possible firing of Kristaponis and Auer agreed to draft the notice to Kristaponis required by law.
Tibbals told the attorney general’s office that he was unaware the issue would be brought up and had not discussed the county manager’s removal with Milz before this meeting.
The investigation found that it was Auer that suggested including the agenda item about hiring an interim manager.
The statement indicated once the issue of the interim manager was placed on the agenda, Milz contacted Commission Chairman Phyllis Hunewill about possible candidates.
Hunewill told the attorney general’s office that once she saw the agenda, she contacted county staff to see if any were interested in being county manager, but none were. Milz told the investigators that he contacted Bob Hadfield at the suggestion of county Human Services Director Edrie LaVoie, who filled in as county manager in the past. He said Hadfield had agreed to be interim county manager if needed.
According to the report, Hunewill said she learned of the agenda item after being contacted by an Appeal reporter, but also said the previous day she spoke with Auer, who informed her about the meeting with Tibbals and Milz and the drafting of the notice.
Kristaponis disputed an item in the report that indicated she canceled a planned mediation between her and the commission.
She said she had Human Resources Director Steven Englert cancel the mediation at the direction of the commission, and that Englert had informed mediator Ruth Urban that the issue would be before the commission.
Commissioners voted 3-2 on Feb. 15 to fire Kristaponis, then immediately voted to hire Hadfield as interim county manager. Hunewill, Milz and Tibbals voted to oust Kristaponis while Larry McPherson and LeRoy Goodman were opposed.
Hadfield was hired as interim county manager at the same meeting.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.