IN AN EXPLETIVE, NOT DELETED , COMMISSIONER LANCE GILMAN PROCLAIMED “ GOOD OLE BOYS GOT US HERE….THEY DESERVE OUR RESPECT GOD DAMN IT” …AS HE MADE THE CASE TO PAY OUT YET ANOTHER BONUS OF $73K FOR A RETIRING SENIOR EMPLOYEE
COMMISSIONER CARMONA JOINED LANCE IN APPROVING THE BONUS AND COMMISSIONER MCBRIDE VOTED “ I CAN’T VOTE YES”. ADD THIS BONUS TO WHITTEN’S $100K BONUS AND THE UNAPPROVED BONUSES OF $215K AND THE COUNTY HAS PAID $388K IN BONUSES IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS….WITH OUR MONEY
IN RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS REGARDING FORMER BONUS RECIPIENT GARY HAMES’ ROLE IN DELIBERATELY AND WITHOUT COMMISSION APPROVAL OVERCHARGING TESLA AND COUNTY RESIDENTS OVER $400K IN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FEES MARSHALL SAID:
THE DIVIDE BUILDING PURCHASE WAS APPROVED FOR $1,327,500……THE COUNTY WILL OUTGROW IT IN 5 YEARS AND WE’LL PROBABLY HAVE TO SPEND MORE MONEY LATER….BUT WHY WORRY NOW…..WE CAN KICK THE CAN SOME MORE
THE $165 PER HOUR CONTRACT TO REHIRE PAT WHITTEN AS A CONSULTANT WAS PUSHED OUT UNTIL THE JULY 2ND MEETING AND PAT WHITTEN WAS FOREVER ENSHRINED IN THE ANNAL OF STOREY COUNTY THRU A RESOLUTION COMMENDING HIS SERVICE
This was an epic meeting in terms of content… almost satirical…and it was long. Jay and Pat covered all of the procedural issues so I won’t. I’ll just get to the most interesting parts.
Of heightened interest….at least to me was the $165 per hour contract with Pat Whitten to come back as a consultant to continue to do his job. At that run rate it’s $28k per month. If he only worked 16 hours a week it’s $10.5k per month. Gary Hames only got $11k per month full time, and Mike Nevin gets $4500 a month part time. This item was pushed out until the July 2ndmeeting.
Agenda item #38 was to authorize the County Manager to purchase up to two years of PERS retirement credits for County Comptroller Hugh Gallagher in the amount of $73,000. County Manager Pat Whitten referred to a letter in the packet from Hugh announcing his retirement effective in October. Pat then went on to laud Hugh’s contributions to Storey County and said that the PERS purchase was a recognition bonus for exceptional dedication and not a retirement incentive.
During public comment I got up to say that it broke my heart to be standing there to object to this bonus for Hugh. I said that Hugh has always been kind and patient with me in explaining how the budget worked over the years. That Hugh has always been generous with his time and responded to my requests quickly and that I trusted Hugh to be transparent in his actions. I said that despite my feelings about Hugh that I objected to the continued payment of bonuses to the highest paid county employees at the expense of the taxpayers as well as the lower paid employees. I said that I agreed with Commissioner McBride’s position at the time Whitten paid out over $215k in unapproved bonuses that government workers shouldn’t get bonuses.
Marshall noted that the county has given bonuses to other, lower ranking employees in the past.
Next up was Gold Hill resident and The Storey Teller editor Sam Toll who echoed my sentiments about Hugh Gallagher and who also objected to the bonus. He said that there were other ways to show appreciation for good work such as a salary increase but that bonuses have no place in government service.
Virginia City resident Clay Mitchell also got up to object to the bonus saying that he didn’t want to be critical and he appreciated Hugh’s work but that what we do in the county can’t be compared to the private sector because we are not the private sector. That people who go to work in the public sector do so because there is security and tremendous benefits…and they do this giving up some of the potential perks available in the private sector, such as bonuses.
Bailiff Nick Lazzarino got up in support of the bonus citing that Hugh was always at work before the rest of the employees and that having great managers is great for employees and that they deserve recognition.
During Board comment, Commissioner, brothel owner, TRI principal, former BLOCKCHAINS worker and aspiring hemp grower Lance Gilman said that he was conflicted and concerned. Included in his speech he noted that Storey County has come a long way in the last 20 years and that it was due to the hard work and vision of leaders past and present. He said that the county was operating more efficiently than before due in part to Hughs efforts and is operating in ways in which the private sector excels.
Lance further stated that he has heard the term “good ole boy” used in a negative way and that it’s not fair. He said “the good ole boys got us here and had the fortitude and vision to get us here….god damn it they deserve our respect”. He said that Storey County is a special case, a special county and a special place which screams thank you to those who built it.
Commissioner Carmona said that “Lance brings up some good points and I have no issue purchasing his PERS or raising his salary”
Commission Chair Marshall McBride said that the past practice and custom of the county was to do this (give out bonuses) and it was not his favorite way to go but Lance makes a compelling argument.
The vote was called for and Jay and Lance voted in favor of the bonus and Marshall said “ I can’t vote yes”
SIDENOTE- This almost requires no sidenote but I’m going to have one anyway.
First I have to say that I report on and summarize the public record and what people actually SAY. You can look it up since I provide a link to the video. SO……before Commissioner Carmona complains that he was misquoted I need to say:
- I can not read his mind in these meetings
- I don’t know what he meant to say
- I don’t know why he said what he said
I can only report what he does and says ON THE RECORD.
I also don’t know what he will explain later about why he did what he did. If he doesn’t explain it in the meeting I can’t report it and people can’t know. I can only report what is on the record because it is provable.
After the fact explaining isn’t the same as standing up on the record. If there is complaining and after the fact explaining on this from Jay then I can only say…..why didn’t you explain in the meeting?
Second…..What part of “this is taxpayer money” do Lance and Jay not get? This is not in the best interests of the PEOPLE. I consider Hugh Gallagher a generous, kind and smart man. I KNOW how hard he works and what he has done for the County….yet despite my personal feelings for Hugh I had to take the stand on the side of the people who’s taxes are being spent. How is this not a priority for Lance and Jay? It seems that the attitude is:
I’d say that the majority of our County employees work very hard and are dedicated to making Storey County great….THEY have also built this county….who fights for them? They don’t get to partake at the public trough of flowing bonuses and obscene consulting contracts. $388k total in bonuses ( for 5 people) , $11k per month to Gary Hames as a consultant, and the equivalent of $28K per month for Whitten’s consulting contract….
This is disgusting. DISGUSTING.
But I disgust……….
And then there was the agenda item which read: Consideration and possible approval of refund of excess funds paid for community development permits in the amount of $71,266.97.
It was explained by Deputy DA Keith Loomis that Community Development overcharged its customers thru unauthorized increases in fees and that this was an action to refund those overcharges. He said that the County’s auditors were hired to do a full forensic investigation and analysis and that their findings were in the packet.
Jay noted that he couldn’t vote yes since he didn’t have enough information. Marshall replied that we reimburse people all the time…property taxes for example. He said that these charges were an inadvertent mistake.
During public comment Gold Hill resident and The Storey Teller editor Sam Toll got up to say that he agreed with Jay. Sam said that the county was being opaque about this issue and asked if the county was going to seek a legal remedy from Gary Hames for these overcharges and where is the accountability for these actions?
Marshall shut Sam down immediately by saying that this was Public COMMENT and no questions were to be asked. Sam had to leave the podium.
I got up to say that I supported refunding people their money but also noted that the forensic audit performed by the auditors had two sections to it. The first section was the actual “ cash” refund examination which resulted in the $71k refund and the second part which included over $325k in overcharges to Tesla….which are “abated”….so I asked if the agenda item was to only refund the $71K cash or did it include an action to deal with the $325k ?
SIDENOTE– I don’t think that Marshall knew about the $325k abated amount…he seemed confused. Then …… I was allowed to ask this question while Sam was shut down by Marshall…how interesting….rules made while you wait!
But I digress..
The answer was that the abated amount could’t be refunded because it was abated…ie Tesla was billed but didn’t have to pay it. That the number gets reported to the governors office as part of the GOED deal with Tesla. I asked if that was going to be done….new numbers resent to the governors office to correct the overcharge. I got no real answer.
SIDENOTE– While Tesla gets many things abated, these fees being one of them…..they realize that they can’t expect the county to bear the burden of having to add people to support Tesla without revenues to do it. In part, that is what the “services agreement” is about. They get the fees abated at the front end….and at the back end thru the services agreement they agree to fund headcount, buy equipment and other things that compensates the county for the upfront fee abatements and added expenses. SO….I think that if the County and Tesla looks closely enough there just might be something that needs to be done about the $325k not just in reporting to the governor but perhaps in the services agreement payments as well..…..but I don’t know…and neither did they.
But I digress…
Virginia City resident Clay Mitchell got up to agree that the refund was the right thing to do.
Virginia City Resident Steve Ayers asked if the County Commission knew about the increased rates and got no answer.
Commissioner Lance Gilman said that based on questions from the public and Jay’s concerns that he agrees that if there is an overcharge we need to refund it but that due to the concerns voiced that he would like a closed session to discuss exactly how this happened.
Deputy DA Keith Loomis responded that authorization for a closed session is limited. Since there is no litigation it can’t be done. Loomis said that he could meet 1-1 with each Commissioner to inform them of the specifics.
SIDENOTE– NO LITIGATION. First of all this says to me that the county has no plan to prosecute Gary Hames for violating the law and increasing the fees without Commission approval. Which one of us little people could get away with that?
Gary worked for the county for many, many years and knows how things work….he knows that only the Commission can increase fees or taxes. He’s getting away with it. Meanwhile his actions have, at the very least, cost the County …YOU AND ME, the price of a forensic audit.
Second, the Commissioners can’t just call closed sessions with all commissioners present without specific legal parameters…litigation is one of them since there is attorney client privilege for the entire group …..outside of that it’s a quorum conducting county business outside of public view. But Loomis can meet 1-1 with each Commissioner with attorney client privilege….which is what he will do.
Back to the meeting……
Lance said that he wanted to know how the overcharge happened. Jay said that if we did something wrong that we need to know about it and that he had no information.
Marshall said that they had just approved a consent agenda which had in it the refund of some property tax due to overcharges so this was no different.
This item was tabled pending the update of Lance and Jay by Deputy DA Loomis. It may be on the July 2nd agenda.
SIDENOTE– First of all…pushing it out was the right thing to do. This is what governance is supposed to look like. Get the facts…if there was an error admit it and fix it, if there was impropriety find it and determine the consequences. Good showing Lance and Jay.
I would also expect a public disclosure of the findings. I won’t hold my breath for that tho….but who knows.
What was not so wonderful was Marshall’s ham handed attempts to minimize or avoid the seriousness of the actual issue by saying that we do refunds all the time…no big deal…there is no problem here.. “ what hump?”
It felt like he was protecting Gary Hames.
Bottom line, the issue is that Gary Hames, a long tenured former, much lauded , highly paid and and heavily bonused senior employee, did this without authorization and that it violates Ordinance and law.
Has an investigation been launched? If not…WHY NOT???? If so what were the results?
Marshall was trying to deflect people away from this issue…..not once, but several times. That is unconscionable for anyone to do…..but particularly for a public servant. Shame on you Marshall.
Disgusted digression number two….
The Purchase of the Divide Building to house the Justice Court and a few other departments was approved for $1,327,500. There was discussion about the details of and the cost to retrofit the building to make it meet the requirements and so the total cost to the taxpayers is estimated to be just under $2 Million Dollars.
Marshall McBride reiterated that it would cost over $4 million dollars to build the building as envisioned years ago and that this was a $2 million dollar savings.
During Public Comment Virginia City resident Steve Ayers got up to say that there was already a spot prepared for the new Justice Court planned years ago near the jail. That the plan was to have a complex with the Court, the DA, the Sheriff’s office all together in that complex. That there would be no need to build it all out at once but that the building shells could be erected then built out for expansion. He questioned the purchase of the Divide building because it is too small for the planned expansion. That the county will outgrow it in 5 years. He asked that the Commission do what is fiscally responsible but not this purchase. He said that he, as well as numerous other merchants, were against this purchase.
He also noted that he had had a conversation with Justice Herrington who confirmed that if/when they put the other departments in the Divide building that they will outgrow it in about 5 years. That it is a good interim step but not the solution.
Gold Hill resident and The Storey Teller editor Sam Toll got up to ask what the specifics were on the $4 million dollar number that Marshall was talking about when he says that this is a savings. Marshall keeps talking about the $ 2 million dollar savings but if the $4 million dollar building had 2-3 times the space then it’s not really a savings…Sam said that no apples to apples comparison has been provided to the public to back that up.
Marshall said that he didn’t have the specifics and the purchase was approved by unanimous vote.
SIDENOTE– As a crafty child…..when I wanted something that I knew my parents wouldn’t give me I would first explain why I wanted it …then pretend that I wanted something more expensive…and they said no. I was depressed…I moped around….I waited. Then I told them that I had found one that was cheaper and I usually got it since it was cheaper. I think that’s what happened here.
Meanwhile my rationalization for buying things that I don’t need continues to be “ well…I got it on sale!!!! and saved 60%!!!”……..I learned this from my mother…..just say’in
Back to reality….
Our Lobbyists gave a comprehensive report out on the legislative actions that affect the County and you can read it HERE. Bum Hess finally showed up but said little and had to leave soon after arrival to attend to drying concrete.. ( Really)
There was a Resolution lauding Pat Whitten’s tenure with the county and many people got up to laud him as well. There is a retirement party planned which I’m sure will be advertised.
There were a few more things but I’ll just leave this report on that note.