State education board member gets August ethics hearing
LAS VEGAS – State Board of Education member John Hawk has been ordered to appear before the Nevada Ethics Commission to answer questions about his plan to open a charter school with his wife.
A complaint issued Friday alleges Hawk used his position to obtain preferential treatment, failed to disclose his private interests to the state board, tried to benefit by influencing a subordinate – Superintendent Keith Rheault – and acted against a November opinion issued by the commission.
An Aug. 18 hearing date has been scheduled for Hawk, who was elected to the state board in 2001. If commissioners find three violations, they are required by law to refer the case to the courts and could result in a $25,000 penalty.
The ethical questions stem from Hawk’s plan to open Nevada State High School with his wife. The school would allow students to earn dual credit for high school and college by taking classes offered by the Nevada State College in Henderson.
When the Clark County School District denied his request for a charter in March, Hawk took his proposal to the Nevada Board of Education.
“Clearly, by March 25, Mr. Hawk knew his position as a proponent of the charter school would come into conflict with his position on the Board,” wrote Stacy Jennings, executive director of the commission, in a July 6 report. “Yet he still filed for re-election on May 3, despite the fact that the charter school application would go to the Board for consideration on May 18.”
Hawk said he has done his best to avoid ethical pitfalls, requesting opinions from the commission, including one in November that said he must resign his position if the state board sponsors his school.
“I have gone through all the steps,” Hawk said, adding that since the school received only a conditional charter, he did not believe staying on the board was a violation.
Hawk said his school may not open this fall because the state board failed to approve the dual credit option last week. He plans to ask the state board to reconsider during a July meeting.
“Here’s the preferential treatment,” Hawk said. “There is none.”
An Ethics Commission panel on Friday also dismissed a different set of complaints against Hawk and State Board of Education members Gary Waters, Barbara Myers and John Gwaltney.
The four had been accused of failing to disclose their employment, or their spouse’s employment, by a Nevada school district while making decisions that affected those agencies.