IT’S TIME FOR AN OLD FASHIONED PISSING CONTEST WITH A PARADE AND BALLOONS AND EVERYTHING. LANCE AND JERRY JUST NEED TO DO IT AT HIGH NOON AND BE DONE WITH IT. ALL THE BACK AND FORTH IS REALLY AN EMBARRASSMENT. MEANWHILE IN REALWORK LAND THERE WILL BE A GAS TAX INCREASE ON THE BALLOT AND THERE WILL BE A SPECIAL MEETING ON WEDNESDAY JULY 27 TO EXPLAIN IT TO US. THE USGS WILL GIVE A PRESENTATION ON AUGUST 2 ABOUT THE WATER SITUATION IN MARK TWAIN AND THE HIGHLANDS….BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!!!
By Nicole Barde
This was an interesting meeting. You can find the Agenda packet here, County Manager Pat Whitten’s summary here, and a link to the audio recording of this and prior Commission Meetings here.
The meeting kicked off with the item requesting approval for a $45,000 settlement agreement for Melissa Reed, former Storey County Sheriff’s office employee. You can find the text of the agreement here. This was discussed as being mutually beneficial for the county and the employee. It could be that $45,000 is cheaper for the county than to go to a full court proceeding to fight whatever chargers the employee has brought against the County. In the Corporate world it’s usually a “cut your losses” tactic against current or future charges for the company and a benefit to the employee in any number of ways, a cash payout being only one of them. After the agreement was presented for discussion by the board Commissioner Jack McGuffey asked if there were any other pending charges or complaints and HR/Planning Director Austin Osborn said that there were 5 with 3 coming from one person. I could not tell if these were all in the Sheriffs office or County wide. He offered to update the Commission during the next Quarterly budget update on their status.
During public comment, Kris Thompson, TRI employee, got up to say that this was the second settlement in the last several months from the Sheriff’s Office ( Shawn Mahan being the first) and that it indicates a high risk of liability in that department. He further stated that the Commissioners should consider looking into what’s going on in this department that is creating all these settlements. That the money going to pay the settlements is taxpayers’ money and that it’s time for a hearing for the sake of public transparency. He said that the County has the tools to do this, to publicize, to correct the behavior in this department.
……………What behavior? What would the correction be?
Kris Thompson assumes that in both cases the Sheriff was wrong. Based on what? What is in the public record that makes it seem like the Sheriff or the County is at fault? It was reported in the VC News, based on public filings , that this employee got terminated for policy violations , failure to maintain her driver’s license ( got DUIs), and conduct unbecoming. She feels that she was being discriminated against due to her gender since she stated in her complaint that other employees with DUI’s had not been terminated. Well…maybe yes and maybe no.
Let’s say the Sheriff was correct in discharging her…she still files suit and it has to be prosecuted. At what cost? Say the Sheriff is wrong and it goes to court but at what cost.? Let’s say $45,000 is cheaper than either of those scenarios. If we are to investigate as Kris Thomson suggests then I want to investigate the settlement of Susan Sutton of the VCCTA and Becky Maholland as two other settlements as well. Let’s look at the whole county for that matter. As to if there are other charges lets see what they are and if there is a pattern of inappropriate behavior then lets deal with that then. Lets see what the evidence is.
Commissioner Gilman then carefully crafted his response by saying that as a Board they want to lower the tax burden on the citizens of Storey County and that requires a need for fiscal responsibility from every department. He further stated that we can’t give rebates and tax decreases if we continue to have to pay these kinds of settlements.
I say carefully crafted response because Lance currently has a personal lawsuit against Sheriff Antinoro. Lance has been warned by the ethics commission in their stipulated agreement (from the Sheriffs failed complaint against Lance) that he can’t use his official office or position to his personal benefit.
This tit for tat between Lance and Jerry goes back a while….. first there was whatever precipitating event that caused twisted undies between Lance and the Sheriff….. then there was a bunch of election stuff, then Lance calling for the Sheriffs censure back in 2014 for someone’s else’s blog post, and then past Commissioner Sjovangen’s outrage and calling for an investigation into the Sheriff’s CERT group for illegal use of county property, then the Sheriff files a complaint with the ethics commission against Lance, then repeated reading comprehension issues with brothel workers filling out work applications and the corresponding repeated denials for work cards by the Sheriff, then there’s the most recent Roger Norman letter to the commission excoriating the Sheriff, and now Kris Thompson piling on to investigate the Sheriff department’s “behavior”. All of this may make for interesting drama but really…..wouldn’t an actual pissing contest be more effective? At least it would only happen once and there would be a winner. Perhaps we add a parade and hold the event each year to make sure there is always a “king”. Then everyone could get back to focusing on the peoples work. I mean really…ENOUGH ALREADY.
The staff updates were pretty much covered in Pat Whitten’s summary of the meeting so I won’t restate here but I would like to amplify one point.
On August 2, the US Geological Survey will be presenting data on their water studies in Mark Twain and the Highlands. They will be asking for volunteers for well monitoring. I plan to volunteer since I am and have always been very concerned about the water situation in general and in the Highlands in particular. We have no alternative water sources. Anyway, my point being that this will be very educational and instrumental in getting an overview of the current situation. I hope there is good attendance.
During the update, Pat talked about the wide diversity of businesses out in TRI. We have everything from manufacturing to fulfillment, from mechanical to high tech and pharmaceuticals. He also spoke about frustration with the mixed signals and major communications issues that he and the Commission has with the V & T Rail Commission. He is looking at requesting that the V & T Rail Commission gets reconfigured with committed stakeholders who will manage it differently. As it stands now they lose money on the line and it’s a recipe for bankruptcy.
Mike Kazmierski from EDAWN gave a very interesting presentation. You can find it here. I won’t restate its content but suffice to say that they have been busy and that TRI and Storey features prominently in their work. The only bad news as I see it is that all the job creation is happening for people living in Washoe and Lyon counties. It’s assumed that those folks will make their way into VC to spend their time and money and I certainly hope so.
Another thing that’s a bit disturbing to me is something what Lance said at the Highlands pot luck on Saturday. Cynthia Kennedy asked him why none of the companies out at TRI don’t participate in Storey County community events and in supporting the community directly. The net-net of his answer is that they basically think they are located in Reno/Washoe. That’s where their employees live and that’s what they identify with. He talked about how the TRI team originally “branded” the park using Tahoe in the name since everyone knew about Tahoe and Reno since that was the largest city near the park. He admitted that it has worked a bit at cross purpose since there isn’t an affiliation with Storey County as such. He said that they are looking at how to do some rebranding to highlight Storey as the place to be….and not Washoe.
During public comment on the agenda item for approval of the $4500 lease payment to Bucket of Blood Saloon (Commissioner Marshall McBride’s property) for the courthouse parking lot, Mark Phillips noted that Marshall’s financial reporting document lists “none” as properties owned. Marshall didn’t respond and Anne Langer said she’d look into it. Either it’s a mistake or property held in trust isn’t considered as personally owned, or… who knows.
Lastly, the item regarding the approval of the ballot language for Storey County Ballot on whether to increase the fuel tax. The bottom line of this conversation was that the county only has until the end of July to deal with this and there wasn’t enough information available at THIS meeting for the Commissioners to make a decision. This is a complex issue involving simple and government math so it makes no sense. It involves indexing and capping and all manner of seemingly small numbers that add up to another hand in my pocket. Now, I have to say this….since most of us in Storey buy our gas in other counties…I’ll be pissed at them when my gas price goes up……it seems to me that for us here in Storey it affects mostly truckers and those of us buying gas in VC.
There is a follow-up special meeting on Wednesday July 27th with a lot more detail on what we can expect to gain or lose by this measure. I just hope Jim Poston resident Highlands index expert attends so he can explain it to the rest of us!
Meanwhile, congratulations to Lance on being voted honorary Mayor of Lockwood, and best wishes and speedy recovery to Hugh Gallagher on returning from his recent medical leave