CONGRATULATIONS TO MARK OSMER AND CAROL MALEY OF THE VIRGINIA CITY RV PARK FOR WINNING BUSINESS OF THE YEAR!!
THE TAX INCREMENT AREA WAS APPROVED. A FREE RIDE FOR M/BILLION DOLLAR CORPORATIONS BUT NOT FOR YOU OR ME
WE NARROWLY MISSED A “ WE HAVE TO PASS IT TO KNOW WHAT’S IN IT” MOMENT ON A COUPLE OF TIA RELATED AGENDA ITEMS
IN A DISPLAY OF TRUTH BUT NO CONSEQUENCES COUNTY MANAGER PAT WHITTEN GOT A GLOWING PERFORMANCE REVIEW FROM THE COMMISSION AND A $100K BONUS! NO MENTION OF THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH THAT PAT WHITTEN GAVE AWAY $217K IN UNAPPROVED BONUSES TO THE HIGHEST PAID RETIRING COUNTY EMPLOYEES
By Nicole Barde
You can find the Agenda HERE, County Manager Pat Whitten’s summary HERE and the video/audio HERE.
In reviewing the agenda packet beforehand I noted that there were no documents to accompany three of the agenda items. Specifically the # 10-Cooperative Agreement between the County and the TRI GID for the TIA, # 11-the Reimbursement Agreement between the county and the companies receiving reimbursements for paying for the pipeline and lastly # 12- the way that the “excess” tax increment revenues will get deposited into the various tax agencies.
The two agreements were sent to me via email that morning then handed to me in the room just minutes before the meeting started. At the last Commission meeting, I had asked about these agreements since they were referenced in the presentations. I asked several times if they would be out with enough lead time for the public to really examine them and was told yes several times. I expected to see them days before the meeting.
I got up during the Agenda review to note that neither I nor anyone else has had the opportunity to review these documents prior to the meeting and requested that they push out those agenda items for discussion and voting until the public had time to review the documents. The initial response was to ask Deputy DA Loomis and another gentleman involved with the TIA deal what the law required.
According to the law, as long as the public gets the material at the same time as the Commission gets it then…. the letter of the law is met. They could proceed to discuss and act on it.
So I asked that if the Commission also just got it that morning and had not seen it beforehand…..how could they vote on it never having reviewed it? Pat Whitten then said that there was an item in there that had not been resolved and so it might be best if the agenda items did get pushed out.
So, these three agenda items will go on the agenda for the December 18, 2018 meeting.
There were few staff updates.
Elaine Spencer, V & T Executive Director reported that the railway ended 2018 above last year in revenues. Polar Express is underway and doing well and they have added more days during the season for all of their activities. She presented outgoing V & T Commission member and County Commissioner Jack McGuffey with a plaque thanking him for all of his contributions. Jack then presented Elaine and the rest of the V & T Board with a plaque containing the pen that Governor Sandoval used to sign the Assembly Bill creating the new V & T into law.
Community Development reported the following statistics collected between July thru December.
- Construction/ project documents reviewed=154
- Permits issued=230
- Business licenses processed=99
- Fire/Annual inspections=236
- Construction/building inspections=1087
Fire Chief Nevin reported that Storey County sent a truck to help out with the Paradise Valley fire and the regional strike teams spent 10 days out there. They gave much needed help and they also learned a great deal. He also announced that burn season for Mark Twain and Painted Rock will soon be open and that there is a fuels reduction project going on as well. Be on the lookout for crews on Geiger and elsewhere.
Deputy DA Loomis reported that the Open Meeting Law complaint filed by Ms. Tonya Brown was reviewed by the AG and he found that there was no violation.
On to the meeting…
The first Agenda item was the well earned recognition of a small business in V.C who has done an exemplary job of both contributing to the community and in promoting VC. Mark Osmer and Carol Maley, owners of the Virginia City RV Park, were named 2018 Storey County Business of the Year.
VCTC Executive Director Deny Dotson presented the award and noted that the feedback about the RV park on social media has been excellent and there were many comments on how lovely the stay was and how amazing the owners are.
The next Agenda Item was the passing of the Ordinance creating the Tax Increment Area whereby those companies in the TIA will get reimbursed for expenses relating to the building of the effluent pipeline. County Commissioner, TRI Principal, brothel owner and Blockchains government affairs employee Lance Gilman recused himself from this vote and Commissioners Marshall McBride and Jack McGuffey approved it. They said that they were proud to do it and that it would be a lasting legacy to Storey County.
Marshall said that without the pipeline the companies might not fully build out their properties. That this action provides us with a diversified tax base which is what we need to do. He said that based on the projections that the pipeline reimbursements would stop in 9 years and then 100% of the taxes would flow back to the County. Additionally, he noted that the state is a 50/50 partner in this deal and contributing their portion of taxes to this effort.
During Public Comment, several residents including Stephanie Ferdock, Judy Cohen, Mike Riley, Clay Mitchel, Sam Toll and I all spoke out against the use of public funds to pay for the building of the pipeline.
Scott Jolcover, CMI, Corrado DeGasparis, CMI, Kris Thompson, TRI, spoke out in favor of the use of public funds to pay for the building of the pipeline.
Stephanie Ferdock talked about how there are many residents like her who are currently struggling and that the county should think of its own residents’ needs first and not be giving away our tax money. That at some point the residents will have to pay for this thru increased taxes.
Clay Mitchell talked about the possible confusion between the What and the How of this issue. He noted that WHAT needs to be done, build the pipeline, isn’t being objected to and that he supports the use of effluent water and the pipeline. However, the HOW it is being done is the issue.
He said that the citizens of VC and Gold Hill have to pay for the improvements to the water and sewer infrastructure themselves and that they don’t get any tax reimbursement for paying that debt....in contrast to how Corporate citizens are being treated …which is that the county is paying for their infrastructure improvements. Further, that there is always a perception that those making these decisions trade present benefit for future potential and that it needs to shift soon to present benefits as well as the future potential….that the citizens of Storey County need to experience what’s in it for them.
In his statement Kris Thompson, TRI employee, County Planning Commissioner, Blockchains government affairs assistant employee, said that it was a myth that the companies would do their buildout even if the county didn’t give them the public funds to do it. He noted that there are 75 thousand acres owned by high tech companies out there and only 1000 acres have buildings on them with the biggest being Tesla and Switch. He further noted that only a portion of their taxes are paying for only a portion of the entire water project. That the TRI GID has skin in the game as well with their own funds. He went on to relay that there have been 20,000 permanent and contract jobs created, 10,000 at Tesla and that jobs are created for the entire region including Storey County. That the pipeline is a great incentive to keep those companies here.
Sam Toll, Editor of thestoreyteller.online and Gold Hill resident, got up to get clarification on an item mentioned earlier. He asked if Roger Norman ( TRI Developer) was paying for the pipeline and was told yes.
SIDENOTE: Based on the last several meetings it was noted that Roger Norman will essentially be “fronting” the money for building the pipeline to the companies. Meaning that the project has already started. What was discussed at that time was that he pay for it directly then the companies will be given a “bill” from Roger for their portion of the expenses which they will pay directly to him. They will then present the receipt for their payment to Roger to the County to get reimbursed. If this is still the plan then the companies have a separate contract/agreement with Roger directly for this.
I just hope that the quality of work done on this pipeline is better than the low quality of work done on the infrastructure Roger built then charged the county for at TRI. We currently owe about $45+ Million Dollars for infrastructure that is crumbling as we speak. Three inches of asphalt on a dirt road is how one TRI occupant described the roads at TRI. They are going to cost the county a large fortune to repair….in addition to the debt we already owe.
But I digress…….
Sam then went on to say that to suggest, as Kris Thompson said, that the companies won’t develop their properties without public funding for the pipeline is disingenuous. He noted that Blockchains has opted out of the deal and said that they would pay for the pipeline without reimbursement. They have the money to do it and so do the others. They are developing their property due to the huge investment that they have already made. Sam also mentioned the VC/Gold Hill sewer and water rate increased significantly for the residents in order to pay for those improvements and asked why the large corporations get a free ride and the citizens don’t? His last comment was “ The TIA is bad for us taxpayers”
Hugh Gallagher, County Comptroller, got up to say that this deal has had its ups and downs, lots of dialogue and analysis and communication. That it represents financial independence in the future. He described how at one point in the past the general fund was $250k in the hole and that now we have the means to provide for all of our residents in the future.
Corrado De Gasparis, CMI CEO got up to say that Storey County has created a successful ( business) paradigm where people ( companies) want to come here. He described how Lyon County lost Facebook as a potential corporate resident over water.
Pat Whitten mentioned an article where Tesla was rumored to be looking at producing its Model Y vehicle at the gigafactory at TRI. He brought this up to show the potential for continued development and expansion.
I also got up to ask that the Commission not give this corporate welfare to the companies at TRI. I said what I usually say and noted that altho Marshall is optimistic that the welfare will stop at 9 years ( ie, no more need for our tax dollars) that I did not believe that the projections were anywhere near what the reality will be since they changed by 40% the second time they were presented.
The next item was the purchase of several land parcels representing the Fairgrounds property. These purchases totaled almost $600k. The VCTC has been leasing the property from private parties and wants to make some more permanent improvements. The purchase makes sense so that there is a venue where we can hold our signature events like the Camel Races and the Rodeo. The county will be purchasing the property then leasing it back to the VCTC. There were no objections to this.
The next major agenda item was the public performance appraisal of Pat Whitten. You can find the review form and format in the packet at the end. In a nutshell, the Commissioners went thru each of the pages and spoke of Pat Whiten’s accomplishments and skills in a glowing fashion. To a man there was nothing but admiration and praise for Pat’s work for the county. Jack said that in talking to the Department heads that he has never heard a negative thing about Pat. Pat is excellent or distinguished in Leadership, Organizational Management, Financial Management, Human Resources Development, Public Service, Economic Development, Personal Character, Emergency Management and Ethics. Pat is perfect.
Deny Dotson, Cherie Nevin and Jason Wierzbicki all testified as to what a great boss Pat is.
There was nothing mentioned as areas for improvement or growth, nothing that Pat dropped the ball on and there was nothing mentioned about that time when Pat gave out $217k in bonuses with no approval under the noses of the Commission.
The Commission approved a $100k bonus for Pat since he is topped out in his salary range and can’t get an increase that way. The initial recommendation made by Austin Osborn, HR Director, in a memo to the Commission HERE was to award Pat a $61k performance bonus. This was, in essence, a retroactive pay action due to Pat’s having been shorted that amount since 2014 due to some glitch. So, that amount was to “keep him whole” and in essence, it is owed to him. Lance then said that he wanted the bonus to be $100k ( $61k plus $40k) due to Pat’s exemplary performance and Jack agreed. Lance and Jack voted YAY.
There was a bit of discussion about what basis the bonus would be paid…ie direct, deferred compensation and the terms of the payout. It was decided to pay the bonus by June 30th or when Pat retires after that date.
Altho he agreed that Pat should be “made whole” with the $61k ….TO HIS CREDIT Marshall voted NAY saying “ I don’t believe that government workers should get bonuses”.
During Public Comment, I got up to say that I agreed with what was described as Pat’s accomplishments and impact on Storey County. That he has shepherded the county thru some very rough waters and has made significant contributions to the County. That I had had the opportunity to work with him and I found that his approach was to do the right thing for the right reasons…..even if it isn’t quite “by the book” and I appreciated that tremendously.
However, I had heard nothing in this review about the misappropriation of funds from when Pat gave out $217k in bonuses without Commission approval or knowledge. That I couldn’t explain to a child how when you do a bad thing you don’t have consequences so could they please explain it to me.
Marshall very quickly informed me that there was no misappropriation and that I continue to use that word inaccurately. It is a legal term, and that Pat has committed no crime. Furthermore that this has already been hashed out, that it was shown that Pat had been doing this in prior Board administrations and that he did nothing wrong. That a process has been put in place to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.
I asked Marshall if the Board had approved the expenditures/appropriation. He said no. Then I asked if it wasn’t a “misappropriation” of funds then what would he call it? It went on a bit from there but bottom line the unapproved spending ( misappropriation) of $217k in taxpayer dollars is no big deal.
SIDENOTE- ……..I sat in the back speechless throughout the process.
First of all, I have to say that doing and getting a public performance appraisal is daunting to say the least. It had to be grueling for Pat despite the steady stream of accolades. This was the first time that it was ever done and Pat had not received a review in the entire time that he’s been in that job. It looks like Austin did the research to design a process that would accomplish the goal. It was the first time that the commissioners did this as well. Hats off for this effort.
BUT…..It looked like the Commissioners hadn’t been prepped for the process. They fumbled a bit getting started. I would have expected that Austin would have sat down with each of them individually to go over the forms, tease out some strengths and areas for improvement and guide them on how to use the ratings and how to do the review in the meeting. NOPE.
That Austin would have sent them the forms ahead of time, had them fill them out and returned them to him and he would have compiled them into one document to discuss at the meeting. NOPE.
That Austin would have given Pat’s direct staff and some employees lower in the chain the opportunity to provide confidential input into Pats performance as a manager . NOPE
That it would be like the HUNDREDS of reviews I have given and received that as part of the discussion in each section that there would have been some discussion of areas for improvement and development. NOPE.
And that at some point the fact that Pat had given out $217k in bonuses to his buddies without Commission approval would be mentioned and that there would be some impact in the review. NOPE.
It was like witnessing a retirement party in candy-land. Everything was wonderful and sweet.
Additionally , it is astonishing to me that someone as accomplished as Pat Whitten would not have known to check with each and every new Commissioner on how he does his business to ensure that there are no problems with it. Handing out those bonuses was a big enough deal that it should have been disclosed prior to doing it. This is rule #2 when you get a new boss after rule #1 which is finding out what they expect from you. Guess asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission. Hey…..been THERE myself….love the rush….but I always know where the line is….these bonuses crossed the line in my opinion.
I said that in working with Pat that he was focused on doing the right thing for the right reason even if it isn’t “ by the book” and that is a good thing….in this instance, however, I and many others including Marshall by his own words, view those bonuses as the wrong thing to do for the wrong reason…..and with no consequences what message does that send?
But I have digressed enough……..
During Public Comment:
Sam Toll got up to say that he too was in agreement with Pat’s accomplishments and that despite their differences that Pat has always been courteous and professional in his dealings with him. Sam also noted that in his experience as a manager that he takes the opportunity of the performance review to help his employees to improve their performance by giving them feedback as to areas of improvement and that it was lacking in this process.
Clay Mitchell got up to say that he was glad to see the process happening and hoped that the process will get smoother now that they have a framework for doing it.
Kris Thompson got up to apologize to Pat for my comments about the bonuses and said that Pat was wonderful.
After the review during the general Public Comment section, Sam Toll got up to say that he has once again reviewed the numbers from the Department of Taxation and that the sales revenue numbers are still in decline and that it looks like we are moving backward. That we are not seeing the benefits in Storey County of giving away our revenues and at a time when we are two Federal reserve rate hikes away from recession.
The meeting started at 10 am and ended after 3:30.