School union members accused of ethics violations | NevadaAppeal.com

School union members accused of ethics violations

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Lynn Trujillo’s decision last fall to make 40 fliers on a school photocopy machine for a walk supporting Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, could cost her up to $5,000.

The Mark Twain Elementary School teacher, along with Jeff Greb, an English teacher at Carson High School, are ordered to appear before the state’s Commission on Ethics board on Sept. 14 for alleged violations of the state’s code of ethics.

Ron Knecht, the former District 40 assemblyman, filed the charges on Nov. 1 of last year. Knecht lost his seat to Parnell in the election.

A panel of six will decide the two’s culpability and what, if any, fine to access up to $5,000 for a first-time violation.

“The commission could find a violation and assess a minimal penalty,” said Stacy Jennings, executive director for the Commission on Ethics. “Or they could find a violation and assess no penalty. The penalty is their area of discretion which to reflect the gravity of the violation.”

Last year, Trujillo was Mark Twain’s building officer for the Carson City School District teacher’s union, known as the Ormsby County Education Association, and Greb was its president.

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After a yearlong investigation by Jennings, evidence including comments from Trujillo, Greb, school district counsel Todd Russell and Mark Twain Principal Kathy Adair was presented to two panel members on June 30.

Those members, Rick Hsu and Jim Kosinski, dropped charges against Trujillo and Greb alleging their support of Parnell violated a statute that prohibits employees of a governmental body from incurring expenses on that body in support or opposition of a candidate.

The two-member panel determined that the statute applies only when the candidate is a public officer from that governmental body, in this case the Carson City School District.

However, Hsu and Kosinski did find sufficient evidence to show that Trujillo and Greb may have violated the state code of ethics by using preparatory time to plan union activities, according to the panel’s results published online at http://www.ethics.nv.gov.

It also alleges Trujillo may have violated the code by using the school’s photocopy machine.

The school district contract with the teacher’s union allows mail to be distributed to both physical and electronic mailboxes, according to Russell’s statements in the opinion.

The contact with the teacher’s union does not sanction use of photocopy machines for union activities, nor does it prohibit it.

“We, as a school district, have received no notification of this hearing,” said Carson City School District Superintendent Mary Pierczynski.

Trujillo, who becomes vice president of communications for the union this school year, said she believes the outcome of the panel will be to show that the school district and the teachers union have a close working relationship, as seen through the many joint activities the two do together, like Read for America, senior scholarships and Light of Education awards.

Trujillo said she was “disappointed and saddened” by the panel’s ruling and that she and Greb are both “excellent” and “loyal” teachers.

“It’s unfortunate that people’s reputations and integrity have come into question because of these allegations of wrongdoing,” she said.

At the Sept. 14 hearing, Hsu and Kosinski will be excluded from the panel.

Four of the panel’s eight members are appointed by the governor and four are appointed by the Legislative Commission.

– Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.