Ethics complaint filed over four bottles of water
Mark Twain’s old saw about “Whiskey’s for drinking; water’s for fighting” reared its head again Wednesday in an ethics complaint over four bottles of water.
Cathylee James of Virginia City filed the complaint accusing School Board President Pam Smith of ethics violations when she asked a booster concession operator for bottled water to give to two VIPs during the August 18 football scrimmage at Virginia City High’s new football field.
The complaint accused Smith of using her position on the Storey County School Board to secure unwarranted privileges, saying she didn’t want to pay for the bottled water.
The commission exonerated Smith but she said that doesn’t do anything about the cost of her legal defense.
Smith said the water was requested by two former VCHS graduates who played on the school’s last football team 60 years ago. The school hasn’t had a football team since 1943.
The two men were invited to the celebration as Storey County dedicated the new football field and Smith said it was her understanding the district and boosters were doing everything possible for the alums who showed up.
That claim was backed by district superintendent Robert Slaby, who said they were doing everything possible for the two surviving football players from the 1940s because they were the honored guests at the scrimmage.
But Smith said when she asked for the water, Laurie Barrington, who was operating the concession stand, “got very mad and very rude.”
“She said ‘even God doesn’t get free water, you’re not going to get free water,'” Smith told the commission.
She said she would pay for the water and signed an IOU promising to return with her purse and pay the $4 tab.
She did just that.
But Barrington said Smith tried to use her title as board president to get free water and made allegations Smith had done similar things at basketball games in the past, describing Smith’s conduct as “reprehensible” and “self serving.”
But she had no evidence to prove that allegation.
The commission, with several members shaking their heads during the hearing, ruled unanimously there was no violation of Nevada’s ethics laws.
As commissioner Caren Jenkins put it, there is no violation because she was asking for water for the VIP guests with the understanding they were to be treated to free water and other things that day and, when challenged, agreed to pay for the water – doing so after delivering the water to those elderly gentlemen.
“The most unfortunate thing is this wasn’t resolved before it got here.”
Commissioner George Keele later referred to the case as “very petty,” saying things like that shouldn’t take up commission time.
But commission Chairman Jim Kosinski said the amount of money isn’t important.
“The issue is the principle, not the money.”
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.