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SLC School District trustee files complaint against colleagues based on FOX 13 investigation

Katherine Kennedy, Nate Salazar, Sam Hanson
Posted at 4:13 PM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 20:02:27-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A member of the Salt Lake City School District board of education has filed a formal complaint against three of his colleagues, calling for their resignation.

Board member Mike Nemelka stated he is "disgusted" with the conduct of Katherine Kennedy, Nate Salazar, and Samuel Hanson. He cited a FOX 13 investigation that uncovered dozens of inappropriate messages sent between board members.

Nemelka addressed the letter to attorney Patrick Tanner of the law firm Burbidge & White.

"Using the information provided by Reporter Adam Herbets of Fox 13 and a parent currently residing in Salt Lake School District; I hereby file a complaint against Board Members, Kennedy, Hanson and Salazar for unlawful behavior, discrimination and violation of Utah’s Open Public Meeting Laws, against myself, students, parents, other current Board Members and the tax payers of Salt Lake City," Nemelka wrote.

Nemelka went on to state he would drop his request for an investigation and "proceed with a discrimination suit in the Federal Court" if Kennedy, Hanson, and Salazar step down from their positions on the SLCSD board of education.

A copy of the full letter can be read below.

Members of the SLCSD board began to deal with the fallout of the FOX 13 investigation on Tuesday night, listening to concerned parents give public comment about their behavior during a regularly scheduled board meeting.

According to records obtained by FOX 13, some of these same parents were privately mocked, called names, and made fun of by Salazar and Hanson.

"We've seen division, dysfunction, manipulation, and political motivations that create pawns of our students. It is clear from the news reports yesterday and today that the dysfunction and immaturity of board members has created an environment where board members have been unwilling to listen," said mother Molly Pearce. "I am disgusted at these actions. In light of most recent news coverage, it seems like many on our board are ill-equipped and possibly breaching ethical codes and board policies. I ask of those who are in violation of these terms to respectfully resign.

Board member Michael Nemelka announced during that same meeting he would be filing a formal complaint against board members Kennedy, Salazar, and Hanson.

"I am going to use the investigative report that FOX News prepared as evidence," Nemelka stated. "I want you three to know you have negated any positive decisions this board has made and made us a laughing stock of this whole state... I am disgusted by the way you acted and the things you did in secret."

Neither Kennedy, Salazar, nor Hanson responded.

They have all declined multiple FOX 13 requests for comment.

As FOX 13’s investigation revealed, some of the messages exchanged between board members were more than just profane.

Multiple experts have confirmed that members of the SLCSD board likely violated state laws.

Nemelka was particularly concerned about emails sent by Kennedy to the rest of the school board which intentionally excluded him.

Joel Campbell, a journalism professor at Brigham Young University, said Nemelka's concerns are valid.

"Unfortunately the lesson that the school board is teaching here -- to students, and to faculty, and to parents -- is that it's okay to violate the law, and civility is out the door," Campbell said. "I’m really concerned that there’s a lack of understanding about the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act in our state... I was involved when they changed the law to include these electronic meetings. Thank goodness we have it in place for the pandemic. I think it’s being abused."

According to Utah statute 52-4-305, “A member of a public body who knowingly or intentionally violates or who knowingly or intentionally abets or advises a violation of any of the closed meeting provisions of this chapter is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.”