How dare you make such a vile and dastardly accusation. Now drink up.
Doublespeak: deliberately euphemistic, ambiguous, or obscure language.
Example: I’m sorry you were offended by my motion suggesting you might not be fit to live. It was not my intent to offend you. I am just stating a fact based on the, um, facts that your behavior has demonstrated on certain, perhaps, occasions when there is a moon in the sky.
Forthrightness: direct and outspoken; straightforward and honest.
Example: F**k off and die.
These examples say the exact same thing. But the first is designed to hide one’s intentions, to enact a veneer of civility that one doesn’t have. The second isn’t hiding anything.
I prefer the second. Obviously.
CCSD Trustee Evelyn Garcia-Morales prefers the first.
At the Nov. 18 trustee meeting, Morales made the motion on the wildly anticipated agenda item to hire an investigator to look into allegations of harassment and/or a hostile work environment at CCSD.
Here’s the agenda item, which was written by Trustee Irene Cepeda (emphasis mine):
Discussion and possible action on selection of an outside expert to conduct an investigation into allegations of a hostile work environment at the executive and administrative levels of the Clark County School District.
That’s it. It reads like they are going to examine Supt. Jesus Jara’s claims of a hostile work environment against the three trustees who have consistently questioned his intentions: Linda Cavazos, Lisa Guzman, and Danielle Ford.
To Jara, any woman who questions his intentions is hostile.
These allegations were brought to light in a letter from Jara’s attorney – a board member of the Public Education Foundation – who demanded over $600,000 for Jara in regular compensation, and an additional $2 million. Just for the hell of it, I guess.
The agenda item Cepeda brought also reads like they are going to investigate the claims former CCSD negotiator Fikisha Miller brought to light – confirmed at the Nov. 18 board meeting by Ford – about the hostile work environment that Jara has created for his employees. Claims which directly led to his termination.
But that’s not the motion Garcia-Morales made. This is the motion she made (again, emphasis mine):
I’d like to make a motion to authorize up to four members who are not named in the demand letter to work with the purchasing department to identify and select a firm, not to exceed a hundred thousand dollars; authorize the CFO to identify funds in the general budget; work out a timeline and present it to the board after the firm is contracted. Further, I’d like to embargo investigation, and the information named within the claim until final results are reported. And finally I’d like to ensure all staff complies with the investigation.
In other words: We, who support the man who one of us feel she might have, maybe, could have, but isn’t sure, mistakenly fired, feel you, who have not realized your mistake in casting out the Messiah, are not civil and obedient enough to sit on this board. And we have devised a plan to be judge, jury and executioner to remove you from the board.
You can listen to Garcia-Morales read the motion here. She stops and starts a lot, which is a hallmark of doublespeak, so it’s hard to take in when listening.
Note that she says she will present the plan to the board AFTER the firm is contracted. And, she is embargoing information. To whom? Me and other members of the press? Other members of the board? The state board or superintendent? Legislators? There is to be no oversight of the selection process, the parameters given to the possible firms, good-faith investigation into their conflicts? Can the “up to four” members of the board who all support Jara tell the investigator to only look at Jara’s claims, and not Fikisha Miller’s, without any member of the public – or the other three trustees – knowing? If a CCSD employee is afraid to comply, what will happen to them? There is no promise of non-retaliation. It could be entirely possible under this motion for the board members who are loyal to Jara to hire HIM to run the investigation.
“It would be that the three of us, then, would be the ones who are basically targeted,” said Linda Cavazos after she had Garcia-Morales read the motion again.
You can see in the 50-second clip that Ford and Guzman are nodding their heads as Cavazos says this. You can also hear in this clip the answer board attorney Mary-Anne Miller gives Cavazos, where she only talks about Cepeda’s intent. Then there’s Cavazos’ last line.
“Thank you Ms. Miller, ‘cause that’s what I heard Trustee Cepeda say also, and what her intent was, but that’s not what I heard in the motion.”
It is very civilized – and also very doublespeaky – to only answer half the question, as Mary-Anne Miller did. Technically, she didn’t lie. But hell, she was at least nice while she was being misleading. That’s all that counts, right?
Forthrightness: You just put something in that drink you were trying to give me.
Doublespeak: How dare you make such a vile and dastardly accusation. Now drink up.
Check out this exchange between Ford and Garcia-Morales (with accompanying transcription):
Ford: I think that that motion pretty much answered my question. But to clarify, um, is this item intended to investigate the three trustees that are named, uh, to the press, which are president Cavazos, trustee Guzman and myself. Is that what this item is for?
Garcia-Morales: I was pretty clear when I said that my motion was to authorize up to four members who are not named in the demand letter to work with parties to ensure that we can move this process forward. So I’m not sure what you’re ask, asking…
Ford: Move the process forward by investigating who?
Garcia-Morales: The allegation… the allegations of the demand letter.
Ford: OK. So the three trustees who would not be included in this process are the ones being investigated. Yes or no.
Garcia-Morales: That’s not… I’d love to understand a little bit more about your interpretation of…
Ford: Oh, sure. I often say that this board gaslights me. This is an example of that. My question is not unreasonable. I’m being extremely clear. Stop acting like I’m the one who’s causing a problem here. I asked you very pointedly. Is this investigation intended to investigate trustee Guzman, president Cavazos and myself or not?
Cepeda: I feel like I can answer this question. I think I understand. So the purpose of this investigation is to understand the relationship as a whole board in the context of the relationship with the superintendent and his executive cabinet.
Ford: That’s not what the motion is.
My question is, does Garcia-Morales really not understand what her motion means? Or was she just caught flat-footed for being called out? Boy, getting Ford off the board sure would lessen the chances of being called out in the future.
I should also note that I did edit the video above to take out a few seconds of Cavazos asking the audience to be quiet.
The Plan! The Plan!
The most interesting part of the Nov. 18 meeting was seeing Irene Cepeda change her mind about why she had brought the agenda item to rescind Jara’s termination forward. I’m not sure if this was intentional double-speak or not.
First she said it was because there was an open meeting law violation. “I know for a fact that four trustees communicated on this agenda item,” meaning the item to terminate Jara’s contract on Oct. 28. But despite prodding by Ford, Cepeda never answered what that violation was. You can watch the almost 12-minute interaction here, as Ford reads a great deal of her open meeting law complaint against board attorney Miller from May of this year.
Then, during the next agenda item, Cepeda went on a rant about the fact that there was no plan.
I’m gonna lay down two videos here. One is part of Cepeda’s rant from last Thursday. The other is an exchange between Ford, Trustee Lola Brooks and then-Trustee Deanna Wright in June of 2020 – where Ford specifically asks for a succession plan.
The funny thing about the last video? Ford was completely calm and civil. It was Brooks and, especially, Wright, who decided to shame her for bringing up a point which Cepeda now says was never discussed. There were, in fact, numerous times over the last year and a half that the board of trustees was waylaid from a discussion about a succession plan.
And regarding Cepeda… She voted “hoping there was a super-secret backdoor plan,” and yet she’s also asserting a violation of open meeting law?
There’s a lot of talk about the “warring factions” of the Trustees. And many people, who see chaos as the fault of both sides, want to get rid of the lot of them. What I see is that there is one side who wants to block out the “public” part of their jobs, and allow their only employee to amass total, dictatorial control. This faction uses underhanded, doublespeak tactics. And let me be clear… this side also banks on the fact that most people in Las Vegas just don’t care, and many of those who try are so turned off by the noise that they don’t want to look at the details.
This is the subject of journalist McCay Coppins’ piece in 2018 on what Newt Gingrich did in the early 1990s – creating chaos, then blaming the chaos on the other party. It worked. Which is why governing bodies from school boards to Congress use the tactic still.
Here’s the thing: If someone throws a lit stick of dynamite into a room, and chaos erupts as people who see the dynamite do everything they can to clear the room and/or eject the explosive, it is not the fault of both sides that it’s noisy.
This is clearly what I see in the CCSD boardroom. There are people who count on the civility of their disingenuousness to fool people who see forthrightness – especially in women – as a sin. And it works. Sadly, depressingly, it works.
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