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Washoe meeting adjourned amid election audit outcry; recommendations moving forward

Noel Sims
Noel Sims
ElectionsNorthern Nevada
Washoe County Registrar of Voters Jamie Rodriguez oversees vote counting on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022 (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

When the Washoe County Audit Committee convened on Tuesday morning, it was set to discuss one agenda item — an external audit of Washoe County elections.

But the committee never made it to that agenda item. 

Instead, after a heated round of public comments alleging that the meeting was taking place illegally on account of vacancies and a lack of appointed chair, Commissioner Jeanne Herman made a motion to adjourn, which was approved unanimously by the three members of the committee — to the delight of many in the audience.

Had the meeting continued as planned, the three-member committee and the public would have heard a presentation from County Manager Eric Brown on updates to county election procedures underway as a result of an external audit which found that the county elections office is understaffed and lacks adequate training, communication and security.

Herman told The Nevada Independent that she already thought the meeting should not take place before she heard public comments, but denied she was motivated by concerns about potential legal violations.

She called the alleged violations “loose ends” to be straightened out before the next committee meeting and attributed them to the committee’s “quiet” and small role.

According to Washoe County Commission Chair Alexis Hill, the presentation, which can be found online, has not been rescheduled. 

County staff affirmed to The Nevada Independent that the meeting was legally held.

“They wouldn’t have us meet if it wasn’t legal,” Hill said of the county district attorney’s office, which provides legal counsel at committee and board meetings.

Legal violations, ‘loose ends’ or a misunderstanding?

The audit committee, which is created by a county ordinance, is required to have at least three members — currently County Commissioner Jeanne Herman and two appointed volunteers — Charlene Hart and Barbara Kinnison. Two other members were still on the committee the last time the election audit was discussed, but their terms have since expired. The committee’s purpose is to oversee county financial statements, internal and external audits.

One of the allegations made during the meeting’s public comment portion was that it could not legally meet until those vacancies were filled. But the board currently meets its three-member minimum and can take action at meetings with a quorum of members — a simple majority as defined by Nevada’s Open Meeting Law, which applies to advisory committees. 

Another allegation raised was that the meeting was conducted without a chairperson. The committee is required by the county ordinance to designate a chair and vice chair, but it does not specify that the chair must be the person to call meetings to order; county staff assumed that role on Tuesday. The Open Meeting Law does not specify that the committee must appoint a chair.

Finally, many commenters alleged that Hill, who is an alternate member on the committee, had voted inappropriately at prior meetings. Open Meeting Law allows public bodies to designate an alternate member who assumes full responsibilities and powers when sitting in for another member.

Hill was present at Tuesday’s meeting, but did not vote or participate in discussion. Hill did participate in the discussion at a June 9 committee meeting, but no votes or actions were taken.

The office of Nevada’s attorney general declined to comment on any of the alleged legal violations around Tuesday’s meeting, but encouraged anyone with a concern to file a complaint.

Activists take aim at election security, county officials

When the committee discussed the elections audit on June 9, several commenters expressed their distrust of the county’s election system and opposed spending public funds on a contract with The Elections Group —an Illinois-based consultancy that opponents have attacked for “leftist” ties — to evaluate and address issues. 

Many comments at Tuesday’s meeting echoed those from June 9, but from the very first comment by Washoe County GOP Chair Bruce Parks, there was also a new refrain: The committee meeting Tuesday was illegal and should be adjourned.

Several commenters, including Washoe County GOP members, activists, and allies of Robert Beadles, repeated Parks’s allegations. The two-hour meeting was taken up almost entirely by public comment and only one commenter, Cindy Martinez, disagreed with Parks.

Beadles, after assuring Herman that none of his remarks were aimed at her, criticized the county’s election staff and contract with The Elections Group in his public comment.

He also called the committee’s attention to a lawsuit he filed last week against county officials which alleges they have enabled election fraud. Beadles, representing himself, is calling for all three plaintiffs to be fined or removed from their positions.

Beadles donated $8,000 to Herman’s 2022 campaign through Coral Bay, his business, and the Franklin Project, his PAC.

Meeting chaos doesn’t affect audit status

Despite the meeting being cut short, Hill said implementation of suggestions from The Elections Group is already underway. 

According to a report from the county, the registrar of voters has already put some of the proposed changes into place and others are in progress. For example, a project manager for technological security has already been assigned, and a new deputy registrar will likely be hired by Nov. 1.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform the public about this progress, rather than to take any action on the election audit. Hill said she was “disappointed” that the public missed that opportunity.

She also noted that Herman has proposed a citizen advisory board that will come before the board of county commissioners sometime in August, but said the exact nature of the proposed board and its authority were not yet clear.

Herman acknowledged that changes from The Elections Group audit were already underway, but argued that county citizens should have a say in how county elections are conducted.

“People don’t believe we need an outside group,” she said. “This is our job.”


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