CONGRATULATIONS TO COMMUNITY CHEST FOR RECEIVING A $150, 000 GRANT TO FINISH THE LIBRARY!
CONGRATULATIONS TO BRUCE AND LINDA LARSON OF BOTCHA-CALOOPS FOR BEING NAMED STOREY COUNTY BUSINESS OF THE YEAR!
LOTS OF NEW POLICIES TO KEEP THE NEXT COUNTY MANAGER FROM GIVING AWAY THE STORE IN BONUSES BUT NO CONSEQUENCES FOR PAT WHITTEN SINCE HE IS VERY SUCCESSFUL …BUT WAIT… WHO GOT WHAT?
LOCKWOOD THANKS LANCE GILMAN FOR HIS PERSONAL CHECK OF $10,000 FOR PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT
A PUBLIC APOLOGY TO SCOTT JOLCOVER BY SAM TOLL AND THE STOREY TELLER
Pat Whitten’s summary of the staff updates and major voting items is fairly complete so you can read them there.
First of all CONGRATULATIONS to Community Chest Executive Director Eric Schoen and his staff for getting the final $150,000 to fully complete the construction of the new Library. The Pennington Foundation generously gifted them the money so that they would not have to incur debt to finish the project. He also reported that the Angel Tree project provided for over 120 gifts and that they gave away over 40 baskets last Christmas season because of the generosity of Storey County residents..WELL DONE Storey County!
Austin Osborn, Planning and Human Resources Manager reported that the county is going to have a significant increase in medical premiums next year. This is because the current pool of insured employees apparently had a lot of major illnesses and procedures this year. Use of insurance drives up the premiums. He suggested that if anyone (employees) has any procedures that they need that they get them done in this coverage year since the plan coverage will be better and cheaper now than it will be next year.
Comptroller Hugh Gallagher reported that he will be doing a review of actuals compared to budget for the last quarter in the next February Commission Meeting. He will also be presenting the augmentation budget…i.e., a request for more funds over what was originally approved. The augmentations in the past typically cover unexpected expenses or overages in the approved budgets. Hugh said that this one will cover the additional expense of acquiring Pipers Opera House (it needs an operating budget) as well as the budget for the V&T Commission. There will also be a new MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) initiated with the Rail Commission between it and the County.
County Manager Pat Whitten gave a brief update and mentioned that Commissioner Lance Gilman had presented a personal check for $10,000 to the Lockwood community for the purchase of playground equipment at the Louise Peri Park. Very generous of Lance, as always!
During Board updates Commissioner, TRI Principal and brothel owner Lance Gilman read a lengthy statement about the high praise that a senior TESLA manager had for Team Storey and Gary Hames and the Fire Department.
The manager lauded the ease of doing business the professionalism, thoroughness and quality of the work done by the team and said that it was the reason why so many companies have moved to TRI. Lance then proceeded to laud Pat Whitten as the architect of the reorganization of the Community Development Department as well as HR (Austin Osborn) for their work to make that re-org a success. There were lots of new people and processes to get off the ground and he said it was done without missing a beat.
Lance also mentioned that the European magazine The Economist was there to do some interviews and that they were also very impressed at what was being done out there.
Agenda item #7 was the National Radon Action Month proclamation. Radon test kits are available at the Storey County Library, as well as locations in Carson City. Presentations are being held and free test kits are available at the Senior Center in Virginia City Thursday, February 15 at 12:45 p.m. and at Lockwood Community Center January 22. Additional information can be had by calling the Radon Hotline at 888-723-6610.
Next up was the 2017 Storey County business of the year….Botcha-Caloops. Bruce Larson was there to accept the award..CONGRATULATIONS Bruce and Linda!
Items #15 and #16 had to do with the review of several new policies a few which had to be written to ensure that future County Managers don’t go on a spending spree and give out bonuses and other perks to employees without Commission approval . The commission also reviewed the draft of the County Manager job description.
The three policies aimed at limiting the County Manager’s ability to hand out bonuses without approval were first , the Separation Agreement policy ( page 77 in the packet) for when an employee leaves and gets a bonus for outstanding service. This is not meant for every departing employee just those who have gone above and beyond as determined by the County Manager. This special bonus is for up to $30,000 into PERS or deferred retirement fund.
The second policy reviewed was the Voluntary Retirement Program ( page 72 in the packet) intended to entice someone to leave when they are nearing retirement and when it will save the county money when they are replaced with someone three levels lower. This retirement buyout is up to 2 years of time in the PERS system purchased on their behalf up to a maximum of $30,000.
Both of these policies exclude certain classifications of employee including elected officials from receiving these bonuses.
Among other comments Commission Chair Marshall McBride expressed concern that this not be viewed as an incentive for any and all employees to terminate since not everyone is eligible. Commissioner Jack McGuffey asked that the policies be made more simple.
The third policy was Contracts and Agreements ( page 86 in the packet) which requires the County Manager to get the Commission’s approval for any and all contracts and for any changes in contract terms over $10,000 or $5,000. This amount was under debate with Lance saying that he’d be most comfortable with a $5000 limit.
These policies are still under review and will be brought back for further review at the next several meetings.
During public comment I got up to ask the rationale for eliminating elected officials from receiving these bonuses. Bob Morris, outside counsel, said that they are elected for a term and are not employees and that NRS sets their salaries.
I also asked why there was no policy for other random acts of bonus of cash or other perks such as an out of cycle bonus for just being wonderful. There is no policy that defines what types bonuses that are allowed i.e.….what’s IN and what’s OUT. What about performance bonuses in addition to the specified annual increase in and out of cycle? Can a bonus be just cash? Whitten himself got a PERS time purchase as a current employee, can that happen any time the County manager wants to do it?
Just exactly how many bonuses can a departing employee get? There was a collective “ hummmm” and they said that they will look at this.
During the review of the County Managers job description it came out that NRS requires that the County Manager get an annual performance appraisal and that it be public. Pat was asked when his last evaluation was and he stated that it had been years. The Commission took the action to set the time for Whitten’s evaluation.
During public comment, Tris Thompson, TRI project manager, Brothel spokesman, Gilman Family Trust risk manager and Lance Gilman roommate, got up to say that we are blessed to have a team with such professional respect and trust in each other. WHAT VICTORIES YOU HAVE HAD”! he exclaimed.
He congratulated them all.
He then went on to say that the job description is a job description for a NEW person in the job of County Manager but not the current person ( Whitten) since he is successful.
SIDENOTE- I read this to mean no consequences for Whitten whatsoever. What with the high praise from Tesla, from Lance and now Thompson how can anyone possibly think to hold Pat accountable for giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars to the most highly paid employees in the county with no authority or approval? The insiders get richer, the taxpayers pay for it, and the power structure protects its own. I’m sure that there is more of this out there that we don’t even hear about. Disgusting.
But I digress…………….
He further stated that the Washoe County evaluation process of the School Superintendent was a disaster and so Storey County needs to ensure that the evaluation process is defined and that the job description contains the key deliverables and milestones expected of the County Manager.
The agenda items that followed were first readings of a number of Code and Zoning changes. This was a long and detailed ( boring ) process to go thru in this meeting…..can you imagine what it took to actually review and write the changes? My hat is off to Austin and his Planning team as well as the Planning Commission who does this work. These codes are the implementation of the Master Plan and ensure that the county has guidelines and direction for living and doing business here. Thanks to you all for doing this.
During one of the recent Commission Meetings I asked to get a copy of all of the people that Pat Whitten had given out bonuses to in the past. What I got was a complete list of 24 bonuses that were in the system for severance packages and purchased years of service. This is more than the 17 that Whitten said he could find. It is also limited to only those two categories. It doesn’t capture any other types of bonus payouts that might have been in cash. This list does not include the recent three payouts for Haymore, Hames and Nevin. You can see the full list HERE.
At the end of the meeting during Public Comment I got up to ask the Commission and/or Pat Whitten to explain the rationale for his handing out bonuses for severance packages and early retirements specifically to the elected officials on that list ( whose salaries are set by statute) and what the reason was for him personally receiving a $43,000 bonus in 2008/2009.
At the onset Marshall told me that the Public Comment section of the meeting was for statements and that it was not a Q and A session and not a debate and that further, Pat was not obligated to answer my questions. Then Pat said that he would answer me.
He started by saying that he disagreed with Counsel Morris’s interpretation of the statute that sets elected officials salaries. He said that the former Assessor Kathy Weeks and former Justice of the Peace Annette Daniels wanted to retire and asked for the buyouts and he gave them. Recall that Jack McGuffey was appointed to finish Judge Daniels’s Term then lost to current Judge Herrington in the election for that seat.
As for his own $43,000 bonus Pat stated that the Commissioners at the time approved it. He explained that there were several years where elected officials did not receive salary increases. He was the elected Sheriff at the time and during that time there was an option to get a 1 year PERS payout for eligible officials and Pat was 1 year short of qualifying. Later , while he was County Manager, the commission decided to compensate him for that “loss” from years ago. A retroactive bonus as it were.
SIDENOTE-I still want to understand the reasons for each employee. When asked about the basis for the bonuses in a prior meeting Pat stated that he did it to reward good performance, incentivize low performing employees to leave and to save money for the county by paying out early retirements and replacing them with cheaper employees. I think that this is what needs to be answered by Pat for each employee and it needs to be answered publicly since it was all done behind closed doors , not disclosed or approved and has since been condemned by the Commission. The additional issue of why elected officials chose to retire early and got a payout still needs to be settled if it is true that NRS dictates their compensation. I will ask for this to be on a future agenda.
But I digress…………..
Lastly if, as Marshall says , the Public Comment at the end of the meeting is only for statements on things not on the agenda by the public it means that the only time you can ask the Commission any questions is on items that are agenized in that meeting. If the Commission shuts off two way dialogue during public comment then the only option to get answers is to ask for the topic to be agenized. If the Commission doesn’t want to talk about that item they can , and will refuse to put it on the agenda. This will truncate an already limited two way communication process with citizens who want on the record answers to their questions. I want on the record answers to my questions so that there is never any doubt as to who said what to whom.
Lastly Scott Jolcover, CMI manager and former VCTC Board Chair go up to “go on the record” about his response to an article written by Sam Toll, Editor of The Storey Teller. Scott said that Mr. Toll misrepresented and mischaracterized the amount of compensation that he, Scott, gets as a result of leasing the County the fairgrounds. He said that Mr. Toll said that he got “stacks” of money from the county for the lease. Scott went on to say that he has been in the county since 1987, that he has done business in and with the county over that time. He has always been a part of the county and has contributed to the community. That he is but one of several owners of the fairgrounds and has never taken a penny out of the corporation for himself. He said that the county came to him asking for that property and he leased it to them at a minimal price. That later when it became apparent that the lease payment could not cover the taxes he asked for the added .60 cents per attendee to cover that cost.
He stressed that Mr. Toll never reached out to contact him to talk about this and was extremely upset by the article.
Sam Toll was not at the meeting but word of Scott’s comments reached him and he posted the following full throated apology on The Storey Teller as well as Facebook and the Highlands message board:
On January 13th I wrote a preamble to the Nicole Barde’s VCTC Meeting Report which you can read here.
In that preamble I wrote the following paragraph:
My sources tell me that Jolcover’s replacement was necessary because the Storey County District Attorney’s office has (finally) acted on the blatant conflict of interest that Mr. Jolcover’s seat on the board of the VCTC represented. For the past three years, Jolcover has enjoyed healthy payday because the VCTC leases the land where the Camel Races and the Rodeo happen from Jolcover. In addition to the fat stacks that Scott got from the County in lease payments, he shrewdly renegotiated his deal to include a .60 (+/-) per ticket surcharge for everyone paying to set foot on his leased land. I guess they figured once they leased the land for a couple of years and paid to improve the land and then buy the land from him at the new and improved price somebody (like me) would holler.
In this paragraph, I made reference to things that are factually incorrect.
I state that Mr. Jolcover is enjoying “a healthy payday” and pocketing “fat stacks” from the land he is leasing to VCTC and the county.
This is not accurate.
Yesterday I spoke with Mr. Jolcover and he explained these properties are owned by two companies in which he a minority owner and a 50% owner in, respectively.
These properties were purchased in 1993. Mr. Jolcover’s companies have made material improvements to them over the years. Mr. Jolcover and his partners made additional improvements to the properties when the county began leasing them to make them more useful to the needs of the events.
Mr. Jolcover explained the companies negotiated a .60 per ticket surcharge to cover the cost of the shortfall that exists because the lease payments received to not cover the property taxes that are incurred due to the updated assessed value of the property.
In this case, the fact that the county is negotiation to purchase the properties and the fact that the purchase may result in a profit for the companies that own the property is completly appropriate.
Mr. Jolcover is a long time resident of Storey County and has been in the real estate business in Nevada since 1975. He has been a resident of Storey County for many years and his reputation is one of being a professional businessman with a love of the history of the Comstock and a man who gives back to the community. He routinely conducts tours of his operating stamp mill to school children at no charge to kindle the same love of history in them that resides in him.
Those of you who read The Teller know my passion for writing about things that are controversial in a style and manner that is at times both colorful and thought/ire-provoking. I have done my best to carefully research and document the facts that form the basis of what I write.
In this case, my remarks and characterizations of Mr. Jolcover were not factually accurate. In this case, I did not fully research my statements before I pushed this piece. I did not contact Mr. Jolcover to confirm my source’s information.
This was both irresponsible and unprofessional.
As a practicing writer, community activist and aspiring journalist, it is necessary to be indifferent to the impact of what you write. The fact that someone may not like what you write as it puts them in the crosshairs of daylight and public opinion cannot be a factor in striving for making the County a better place for everyone.
It is, however, unacceptable to be indifferent to the facts and the truth.In this case, I caused Mr. Jolcover and his family attention that was unfair and undeserved.
For that, I am sorry.
Sam Toll – Editor
The Storey Teller