CREATIVE INTERPRETATION OF AND DISREGARD OF THE LAW ALONG WITH OPERATIONAL INBREEDING REIGNS SUPREME HERE IN STOREY COUNTY
By Nicole Barde
You can find the Agenda HERE and County Manager Pat Whitten’s summary HERE. If you want to listen to the meeting you can access the recording HERE.
Under staff updates Community chest Director Shaun Griffin thanked the Commission and the community for turning out for the groundbreaking of the building addition on May 25th. It was a great event and he was grateful for all of the positive support that it received. He also wanted to remind people that Community Chest offers a variety of services to the community including case management support for various issues inclusive of abusive relationships and environments. He also announced that the Library will soon have the same level of online access to resources as UNR does. He said that they have finalized a contract with the state to connect the library to a vast network of databases making it an excellent resource to the community for research and access to information. BRAVO and thank you Shaun!
Stacy Gilbert, Executive Director of the Storey County Senior Center announced that the Center will be having a fan drive for our homebound seniors since most don’t have any cooling in their homes and are ill prepared for the summer temperatures. If you want to help out please drop off a fan at the center or you can make a contribution that will go towards the purchase of the fans.
Jason Van Havel, Public Works Director, announced that the VC pool will be opening next week. He also mentioned that here have been traffic issues at TRI due to road work being done by the TRI GID.
Fire Chief Jeff Nevin said that the burn season is over (affects Mark Twain) and that all but the Highlands burn locations are closed. The Highlands fire station is only taking vegetation to burn, no other types of materials. Jeff mentioned that there has been a lot of abuse of this rule, that people have been dumping furniture and other types of garbage at the burn locations. This has to stop.
County Comptroller Hugh Gallagher reported that the county will be going thru a database migration between 2018-2019. There is a lot to do to prepare for it and even more to do to make it happen. This is as a result of moving over to a new automated data system. Hugh also said that the interview process for a new auditor replacing Pringle and Associates will begin next week and he will have a recommendation for the Commission soon.
Agenda item #9 was supposed to be an update on legislative issues affecting the county. County Manager Pat Whitten said that our lobbyists would be reporting on this in detail in the June 20th meeting. He did say that the bill mandating body cameras and the diesel tax bill both died but that there may be special sessions between Legislative sessions to address a variety of issues…so stay tuned.
Item #10 was a renewal of the county’s contract with the Nevada Agency Insurance POOL. Agent Carol Ingalls reported that they were able to keep the premium increase to 7% which was good considering that the county’s assets, and liabilities, have increased substantially. She also said that the POOL may be able to help find grants monies to fund the body cameras for our deputies.
Item #11 was a rejection of all the bids for the VC sewer improvement project. They re-sized the project a bit and will be going out for new bids.
Item #12 was the contract with the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s office for autopsy services as requested by the Sheriffs Office.
Item #19 was a clarification of the prohibition of any and all sale and use of recreational and medicinal marijuana by marihuana establishments in Storey County. The personal use and growing of the evil weed is allowed per the will of the voters and the law.
Item #20 was the approval of the no bid contract awarded to retiring Fire Chief Gary Hames to manage Community Development indefinitely. You can find the contract HERE. Pat Whitten is hiring Gary as an Independent Contractor. Gary does not meet the requirements of an independent contractor as far as I can tell based on the Federal IRS requirements (20 factor test HERE and HERE), the State’s own 5 factor test and ABC test (HERE) .
SIDENOTE: I have nothing against Gary the person… it’s the process and a lack of consideration for the law that I have a problem with. They don’t give a rip if the contract and this hire doesn’t meet the law…they decided to do it and that’s that. Please note that his contract is for an indefinite time and that he is prohibited from working for anyone else for the term of the contract. Both of these items, along with most of the rest of his contract, violate the requirement to be an independent contractor. If they were hiring Gary on an interim basis for a defined set time to bridge the time they need to find a permanent person maybe it would be more palatable but that’s not what’s happening here.
But I digress………….
Pat Whitten said that they didn’t see the need to do an executive search for an external person due to the expense and the burdensome process of having to get the outsider to “unlearn” long bureaucratic processes and learn how we do it in Storey County. He also stated that since this is a professional services contract that no bid was necessary.
SIDENOTE: I find this interesting since they will be going out to bid for the county auditor which is also a professional services contract. Ostensibly you go out to bid to find the BEST vendor at the right price. You do an executive search and interview candidates to find the most qualified…Is Gary the MOST qualified?
Additionally, there is obviously no succession planning going on in the county. They are literally re-cycling retired senior management to keep things running. That along with hiring friends and family and the attitude that the county will have to “unlearn” what outsiders know in order to work here gives you the product of inbreeding. An insular, inward focused climate of high degree of control and defense where no “outsiders” are allowed, no new ideas, no divergent views, no innovation and no deviation is allowed. We all know the eventual result of inbreeding……well….it’s happening here. So proud…NOT.
But I digress….
Pat went on at length about how Gary is the perfect person for the job based on his understanding about how the county works, knowing how we do things here, how we fast track , his experience doing fire inspections and his overall management experience. Pat further explained that the county saves over $200k by hiring Gary. That as an independent contractor the county doesn’t have to pay his benefits, there is no pension or vacation expense and no car or travel expenses.
SIDENOTE: Gary already has all the equipment he needs paid for by the county in his home office…which matters not a whit since he will be working at the offices of Community Development….the lack of “substantial investment” and working on the premises are other FAILS of the Independent Contractor requirement. Additionally, there was NOTHING offered to show what the savings would actually be by hiring Gary as an Independent Contractor. I mean….it’s a number thrown out there …Pat could have said a billion trillion and it would have been just as valid with no proof. Again, he just decided to hire Gary and backed in to the justification and process.
During public comment Sam Toll, Editor of the Storey Teller online magazine got up to state that going thru a bidding process would have been beneficial to the county both on costs as well as offering the opportunity to gain some “new eyes” to bring in new and possibly better ideas on how to run Community Development. He also noted that it would be healthy to also send both the RAD Strategies (owned by Deny Dotson and his wife) and Liquid Blue (which has a RAD relationship) contracts out to bid to see if there is a better service with better costs for the county.
Commission Chair Marshall McBride said that when you find something that works you keep it. That there have never been any problems with either of those two vendors and that if there were that they would be cut loose.
I also got up during public comment and asked how they were going to get around the Federal and state law defining the requirements for independent contractors ….since Gary didn’t meet those requirements ( per the contract they are having him sign). Pat restated that he WAS an independent contractor and that the county was contracting with Battle Born Consulting LLC not with Gary the individual. Pat also noted that Storey County is following an established precedent set by Douglas County who hired a former Carson City Manager as an independent contractor with the same type of contract. Deputy DA Loomis said that he met “most” of the requirements of an independent contractor.
SIDENOTE: Since Gary is the sole owner and employee of Battle Born Consulting and offers his services exclusively to the county…they ARE contracting with Gary directly…the LLC is a ruse. Additionally, since I haven’t seen the Douglas county contract I don’t know how closely Gary’s contract mirrors it or even if that contract meets the independent contractor requirements
Kris Thompson TRI and Mustang Ranch spokesperson got up to excoriate “ the two prior” speakers saying that they ( meaning Sam Toll and me) wanted to bring in California, Las Vegas style bureaucracy to Storey County and that it is wrong….that Storey County is different, we’re quick not because we cut corners but because we have a fast turnaround time. He lauded the ‘Storey County Attitude” and told the Commission to keep doing what they do.
SIDENOTE: Neither Sam nor I mentioned anything about California or Las Vegas. Sam mentioned a fair and open bidding process and I mentioned THE LAW. Apparently Mr. Thompson just cautioned the Commission to ignore a fair and open bidding process and the law. For a former California lawyer this is interesting.
Net-Net the contract was approved
The rest of the meeting was fairly procedural.