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Joey Gilbert and Douglas County school board are fighting against reality

David Colborne
David Colborne
Attorney Joey Gilbert, an applicant to replace District E Representative Angie Taylor, waits for his turn to speak at the Washoe County School District board meeting on Nov. 22, 2022 in Reno. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

The law firm of Maupin, Cox & LeGoy successfully represented the Douglas County School District for over two decades — and did so again in May when they told their clients that their proposed anti-transgender student policy was a violation of the state’s Equal Rights Amendment.

How did the school board thank their counsel? Why, by firing them, of course — and replacing them with Joey Gilbert.

What are Joey Gilbert’s qualifications? For starters, he was a three-time national college champion boxer at the University of Nevada, Reno. After college, he fought as a reasonably successful middleweight — well, until he tested positive for a chain drug store receipt-list of banned substances. After that, he paid a $10,000 fine, lost a couple of title fights, and became a personal injury lawyer.

The reason his drug-fueled boxing career is important is because his athletic past was and remains a major part of his personal brand. His punchy ads, which were seemingly everywhere in Northern Nevada, all featured a picture of him in a suit, his arms extended forward from his body, both hands clenched in fists, a championship ring on his right hand, and a sales pitch. For a while, the most common pitch was to “Search Joey Gilbert Law,” with “Search” colored like Google’s logo, though “Fighting for You” or “Fighting for Nevada” were also common.

Then came the pandemic — or, as he prefers to call it, “The Plandemic”.

With the pandemic came a plan for a new line of business: challenging pandemic restrictions. He, at least on paper, represented clients who fought against church closures, vaccine requirements and mask mandates. Whether he actually or effectively did so or not, however, is a matter of open debate, as noted conservative lawyer and fellow columnist Jason Guinasso pointed out in a blistering editorial last year. In the column, Guinasso claimed Gilbert “[took] credit for outcomes in important legal cases that [he] had nothing to do with,” and that Gilbert’s “sole role was to solicit clients to oppose the governor.”

Though his involvement in the courtroom might be in question, his involvement with America’s Frontline Doctors, an organization which pitched every conceivable remedy for COVID-19 except ones recommended by most doctors or government agencies, including vaccines. After joining the organization before the 2020 election, he and his fellow organizational members planned a conference on “medical tyranny” in Washington, D.C.

It was scheduled for 1pm on January 6, 2021.

The founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, Dr. Simone Gold, was arrested during Trump’s “Stop the Steal” protest — this arrest proved to be astonishingly profitable for her organization, netting more than $25 million in donations. Gilbert, by contrast, demonstrated a surprisingly lucid level of character and judgment: He left the protest as soon as it was clear he and his antivax friends were getting upstaged by Trump’s much larger “Stop the Steal” event. 

Even so, Dr. Gold rewarded his presence at the protest with a promotion — he was named chair of the board.

Depending on who you ask — either Dr. Gold or Gilbert — one or the other was an out-of-control spendthrift spending the non-profit’s millions primarily on the personal benefit of themselves, their friends, and their supporters. According to Gilbert, Gold’s boyfriend was spending $17,000 a month on a company credit card, while Gold herself was reimbursed $50,000 a month in expenses by the organization — expenses she incurred even though America’s Frontline Doctors paid for her house, three of her cars, and a handsome salary. Gold, meanwhile, accused Gilbert of giving himself an unauthorized pay raise and adding his gubernatorial campaign team to the payroll while she was in prison.

It is, I’ll note, entirely possible both individuals are correct about each other. That, anyway, was the conclusion reached by a judge in Arizona last January after the two sued each other over control of the surprisingly profitable non-profit organization.

Meanwhile, despite having no political experience and little name recognition in Southern Nevada (that’s the part with a supermajority of our state’s voting population), Gilbert decided to run for governor on a platform of, among other things, threatening his political opposition, opposing vaccines, and opposing the results of previous elections. Astonishingly, his claims regarding the illegitimacy of elections didn’t motivate voters to support him — he lost the Republican gubernatorial primary to Gov. Lombardo by roughly 26,000 votes

That, for context, was nearly double the size of Lombardo’s margin of victory in the general election, in which nearly five times as many voters participated. It wasn’t close.

Gilbert disagreed, however. Demonstrating a singular grasp of the law and reality itself, he challenged those election results on spurious and mathematically implausible grounds. Wasting both the court’s and the governor-elect’s time cost him nearly $250,000 in court sanctions and attorney fees.

All of which brings me back to his job interview before the school board a couple of weeks ago, in which Gilbert freely admitted during his hiring interview that he’s not an expert in education law, nor does he have any such experts currently on staff. Even so, Gilbert’s law firm will cost $2,500 more per month, plus an additional $100 per hour, than the previous law firm — the one with over two decades of direct experience with education law in Douglas County alone — charged.

If you’re a Douglas County parent and it helps you feel any better, he says he’s taking classes.

The state’s purchasing and ethics laws, as they apply to local governments, are admittedly somewhat vague and open-ended regarding whether the school board broke any of the rules they were supposed to follow. Though it’s true that local agencies legally aren’t required to competitively bid for professional services, the school board put together a Request for Proposals which, hypothetically, Maupin, Cox & LeGoy could have responded to so they’d have standing to challenge the results. Additionally, one board member disclosed that, before he was elected, Gilbert offered his services — was the decision to select Gilbert as the district’s counsel the product of collusion between the two?

Perhaps, perhaps not — but from the standpoint of Maupin, Cox & LeGoy, why fight it? An increasingly difficult client they were charging below-market rates to just fired themselves.

Similar logic may also explain why the ACLU of Nevada didn’t find a friendly attorney to respond to the county’s solicitation for legal services. Sure, they probably could have found a friendly legal firm willing to respond to the district’s solicitation for legal services. Yes, said firm may have even been able to successfully sue the district and forced it to hire competent, nonpartisan legal representation — but then what? If the ACLU of Nevada must fight the district in court to keep it from applying obviously discriminatory policies against its students, better to fight it while it’s being represented by one of the most demonstrably clueless lawyers in the state.

To paraphrase Napoleon, when your enemy is making a mistake, it’s rude to interrupt.

Like all poor decisions, of course, this one will produce its victims. Chief among those will be the students, teachers, and staff of Douglas County’s public schools, who are now being governed by a board more interested in scoring cultural points for cable news viewers than in receiving sound legal guidance — much less running what’s supposed to ostensibly be, according to our state constitution, a nonpartisan public school system that serves all students regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin. 

Douglas County’s taxpayers, meanwhile, will find themselves on the hook for any legal judgments levied against its school board. If Gilbert’s previous losses are any indication, those will likely be substantial. 

Don’t cry too hard or too long for the county’s taxpayers, though. They’re the ones who elected this board in the first place — and, sooner or later, elections must have consequences.

David Colborne ran for public office twice. He is now an IT manager, the father of two sons, and a weekly opinion columnist for The Nevada Independent. You can follow him on Mastodon @[email protected], on Bluesky or email him at [email protected]


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