Letter to the Editor: Why are answers so hard to come by?

Dear Editor,

Why are answers so hard to come by?

After months of research my questions and opinions are as follows.

On December 5, 2016 a Lincoln County Commission meeting was convened as many before, agenda item #16 was opened, discussed, motioned, passed, and an individual was hired for the position right there on the spot. For those who have not been informed because this too is a secret, that “critical Labor Shortage” designation has since been disallowed by NVPERS.

What the citizens of Lincoln may not be aware of are the efforts and time that has been put towards creating this position for a specific individual actually began approximately 2 years prior to the December 5th, 2016 Lincoln County Commissioners meeting.

In an effort to privatize an existing Lincoln County Employee, Sheriff Deputy duties and turn them into a private contract that would go to a specific individual shortly after his retirement, on the advice of the Lincoln County District Attorney (I did not know that the Lincoln County District Attorney was paid to consult or advise a Lincoln County Employee on how to secure a private contract after retirement). Based on the District Attorney’s advice the Sheriff and then Capt Gary Davis went before the Nevada Ethics Commission to basically get permission to do just that. This was done secretly as is provided by law, although I don’t think this situation is what the law was intended to harbor, just my opinion. The decision (15-28A) is posted on the Nevada Ethics Commission web site without names because it was intended to be anonymous. Obviously is was not kept anonymous because I found it easy enough. The Sheriff told the Ethics Commission that the length, responsibilities, and pay for this “contract” had already been discussed, NRS 281A430(4) says public employee can’t negotiate a contract, so why had they admittedly done that? It’s unclear if our governing body, the Lincoln County Commissioners, were in the plan yet. NRS 281430(4) says a contract would have to go out to open bidding yet the Sheriff told the Ethics Commission that he didn’t anticipate the contract would be open to competitive bidding. Why not? Really? What would the logic behind that be? The Ethics Commission was told no one else had the experience for these duties, but wouldn’t the Sheriff and Capt Davis as administrators, been responsible to ensure the training for these duties of at least one other employee? As it turned out that retirement was over 2 years later, so why wasn’t someone else trained during those 2 years? The Ethics Commission was told that if they find the contract is prohibited by Ethics law then the Sheriff would consider requesting the “critical labor shortage” designation from the Lincoln County Commission, did the Commissioners know they were plan B, almost 2 years before the open meeting to make that designation? Evidently the Ethics Commission decision didn’t go as planned (decision 15-28A) and this weird, nonexistent, special contract was now being called a “position” to get around NVPERS restrictions when retirees work for public employees using law NRS 286.253 (Critical Labor Shortage).

Now back to December 5th Lincoln County Commission meeting and NRS 286.253. I couldn’t attend that meeting but I got a copy of the audio. The Commissioners did not burden themselves with the legalities of what they were about to do. No, they seemed to be under the impression that if they wanna they getta? They did not burden themselves with the many anonymous, calls, texts, letters and face to face contacts from folks in opposition that they themselves referenced. There was no mention of laws or requirements. There was laughter and condescending remarks made about opposition the Commissioners received. There was a multitude of unsubstantiated, statements, the Air Force said this, the Air Force said that, unnamed person said this or that. There was an opposition letter reference many times and finally it was suggested that it was an insider that wrote it, that brought laughter? There was no discussion about why the Citizens of Lincoln County would feel the need to be anonymous, nope no concern for that. The Air Force was quoted as saying, no Gary Davis no $40,000, who negotiated to get that sum and when? That depends on who you ask. The Sheriff said at that meeting that he negotiated that money but he also stated he doesn’t have a security clearance at the test site, so who did he negotiate with and where? I went down to the County and $40,000 was indeed deposited but there is no paper trail. When an entity agrees to give Lincoln County money there is paperwork called an MOU (memorandum of understanding), the paper trail for the money. I was politely sent from office to office looking for this mythical MOU but it doesn’t seem to be with all the other MOUs. Why? One of the folks at the county building said maybe there is no paper trail and smiled. Where did that figure come from? Was that the amount agreed upon during the unethical contract negotiations mentioned in the Ethics Decision? Why not negotiate a little extra to make sure Lincoln County students all have pencils and paper or Senior Citizen in Lincoln County get help with their heating bills? Maybe help some folks with the new trash rate. Can just anyone go to the Air Force and get money for the County for their pet project? How many other deserving Lincoln County Citizens are out there who could use $40,000 and would work tirelessly to earn it? Who is the “Air Force” that is so freely quoted by Commissioners and tells them they must spend this money on a specific individual? That’s like saying they got the money from a “United States Citizen”.

Some mysterious person at some mysterious time went to the mysterious Air Force at a mysterious location and asked for some magic money. The mysterious Air Force said OK but only if the ever obedient Lincoln County Commissioners hire who we tell them to hire for this mythical, nonexistent private contract/position to collect a magic wage on top of earned retirement benefits. In my opinion this position exists in large part due because they did NOT, as part of their administrative and/or supervisory position/duties, make dang sure that at least one other Sheriff Deputy be introduced to the mysterious Air Force and trained for the seamless transition after his retirement, for benefit of the citizens and function of Lincoln County, Nevada? Another duty of this weird position is to look for Detention Center Contracts because the Sheriff stated that they have been wanting to do that for 10 years. Why pay this weird position to do that after retirement because it wasn’t done for the past 10 years as a regular employee. Really? Some of the Commissioners said they wanted someone else trained. Months later, who is being trained? I bet the Commissioners can’t answer that. Is he getting paid to work on renovations to the new office in Alamo or cleaning out the old office in Alamo or are both offices in Alamo needed for this weird position? The old office he never cleaned out after retirement in August, is that true? How about his office in Pioche was that cleared out when he retired? How many offices does this position need? I count 3 so far? Does he go on the clock and get paid to drive from Alamo to Pioche, if so, why? Is this position based in Alamo at one of those offices or Pioche at that office? I bet most of the other working stiffs in Lincoln County don’t get paid to drive to work? Is it true he has a new Credit Card and if true where is the money coming from for this new Credit Card and do the Commissioners oversee its use? Who paid for the new business cards for this position? Is it true he never returned Lincoln County owned property after retirement, not the offices, not the vehicle, not the law enforcement equipment, etc.? How long does a retired employee have to vacate offices, return County equipment and vehicles? If true why was that allowed? If all or any of this is true then it sounds to me that the “letter” in opposition that was so freely quoted and made fun of had merit, at least the references to “hidden costs”.

In closing I would like to quote a statement made by one of your Lincoln County Commissioners at that December 5th meeting: “It has been suggested this is good ol’ boy politics.

His next statement is as follows:

“The Sheriff needs someone he can work with, and I don’t care that he was good friends with Capt. Davis. If they had a good working relationship, that’s the reason he’s a good person for this position.”

My personal opinion is that’s a whole bunch of something but GOOD isn’t the four-letter word that comes to mind.

Sue Lewis

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