Storey County District Attorney Invokes Gag Order In Gary Hames Incident
Scores of people have contacted The Teller looking for more details since we broke the Gary Hames story last week. Thanks to the complete lack of transparency in Storey County, we know exactly nothing about why.
Hames removal comes after constant praise for Hames from County Commissioners and County Manager Pat Whitten. Long-time readers will remember community displeasure with Hames’ appointment when it happened in 2017. Citing Hames’ vast “institutional knowledge“, Whitten lauded the Hames appointment as innovative. And lest we forget, Pat Whitten gave Gary Hames an unauthorized “retirement bonus“. Earlier this year, Whitten continued to praise Hames, complimenting him in increasing the revenues Community Development generates.
Storey County Contracted with Battle Born Consulting Services (BBCS) at $11,354 per month to provide consulting services at Community Development. Gary Hames is the sole proprietor of BBCS and became Community Development Director soon after he retired as Fire Cheif. Storey County often used the “we can’t discuss this matter because it is a personnel matter” reason for not disclosing information on wrongdoing.
Stonewalling The Teller is nothing new in Storey County Government. We have over a dozen open record requests, some have been open for more than a year. Remember, when the County with holds information or does not respond to us, they do the same thing to you.
This time, however, the alleged wrongdoer is a private contractor. Nonetheless, District Attorney Anne Langer has ordered everyone in the County to remain silent while her office conducts an investigation. Sadly, that leaves the community completely in the dark. The Teller has received dozens of communications from the public speculating on the reason.
Speculation varies from the absurd to the plausible to perhaps exactly why Gary Hames was (presumably) fired. Evidence provided from a whistleblower inside Community Developement provides hard evidence that Hames allegedly committed serious missteps. The charges resulting from these missteps might be serious enough to justify fines and jail time.
- Hostile work environment. Folks contacting me include current and former Fire Department employees suggesting that Gary Hames “finally got what’s coming to him”. Descriptions of Hames alleged interpersonal interactions were truly cringe-worthy. Within the past six weeks, two ten year Storey County employees left Community Development allegedly stating irreconcilable conflicts with Mr. Hames. In our investigation, we could find exactly no current or former employee who had a good thing to say about Mr. Hames.
- Incompetence – Outside of fire safety plans, Mr. Hames has no formal training relating to building inspection. To be sure, that is why you hire qualified building inspectors. But to be an effective Community Development Director, you need to know more than just where to put the sprinkler system. To serve the scope of projects at TRIC, you should at least know how to calculate the snow load of a roof.
- Some other unknown reason. Our sources in the Fire Department allege the Storey County Fire Department lost fire department assets as a direct result of Gary Hames missteps. Gentle readers may remember the Fire Engine involved in an accident that was kept from leaving the roadway at 70+ mph only because it struck an RV. Multiple sources in the Fire Department have told us that Chief Gary Hames ordered the removal of the speed governor. This explains how the Fire Engine was traveling so fast when the front tire blew out.
- The Little Valley fire claimed a Fire Engine because Hames allegedly sent the truck with only two firefighters. The normal number of personnel is four. These firefighters were less experienced than others in the department and they lost the Fire Engine in the fire.
What’s The Real Reason Gary Hames Got Fired (assuming he actually got fired)?
Fact: We don’t know for sure. Until the DA lifts the “gag order” the facts will continue to be kept from the public. Cliff Notes Version from our evidence: Gary Hames allegedly worked with Pat Whitten’s office to allegedly illegally raise the price on all fees charged by the Community Development Department. The Storey County Commissioners must approve all fee increases levied by Community Development with an ordinance before they go into effect.
A Message from Storey Teller Editor Sam Toll – In early March, a packet of information arrived at my lawyer’s office. In it was a variety of documents and a USB drive containing emails and spreadsheets. To the provider of these documents, and to the residents of Storey County, I wish to make a public apology. I was unable to give this packet the attention it deserved when I received it because my bandwidth (and cash) was being consumed by the vexatious lawsuit brought on by Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman. No excuse. Lame, lame, lame.
It is the time for all of Storey County to see what I saw and to come to their own conclusions.
For The Record, The Teller has not been able to confirm the veracity of these documents dispite multiple efforts.
Road Map to Potential Wrongdoing
This document was on top of the packet. It is the road map to the emails and rate change examples. The whistleblower was present when Gary Hames is alleged to make the statement “he would plead ignorance if confronted”Community Development - Confidential
Imagine if this isn’t the reason for his presumed termination.
Email Dump Wikileak Style
For The Record, we have not been able to confirm the veracity of these documents. As stated above, we have made public record requests to seek these documents directly from the county. Cross-checking the emails would confirm their accuracy. County Manager in-waiting Austin Osborne sent me the following response: “Thank you for your inquiry. We have been advised by the District Attorney’s Office to not release these records until this matter can be looked into a bit further. Otherwise, we will gladly provide public records”
Below you will find all the emails that were provided to me from my anonymous source. If accurate, these emails outline a potentially illegal scheme between Jessie Fain (whose desk is directly outside Pat Whitten’s office) and Gary Hames to create a new fee calculation spreadsheet. This spreadsheet appears to increase the cost of fees charged individuals and businesses substantially.
In order to assess the financial impact of this fee increase, we requested the charges surrounding Tesla. The examples provided from the whistleblower show overcharges at somewhere around 10-15% A quick perusal of the Community Development website shows an average of 100+ open tickets under review monthly at Tesla alone. The financial impact of this potentially illegal rate increase could have serious implications for Storey County in terms of refunds and less projected revenue in FY2019-20.
Waiting For Storey County To Communicate
We cannot assess the scope of the overcharges until the District Attorney releases the documents we requested. However, if the transaction included in the supplied documents are indicative of the unapproved up-charges, the scope of this scandal could be hundreds of thousands for Tesla alone.
Again, we have not been able to confirm the accuracy of these documents. However, we have contacted our sources in the county and believe them to be accurate. We are releasing them in an effort to provide Storey County residents and the public at large with this information.
Reimbursement, Cash Clawback & Jail Time?
Once the investigation is complete, we hope to see further action. At a minimum, Storey County will have to reimburse anyone overcharged. We would expect Storey County to clawback most if not all of the contract payments made to Hames. If these actions prove to be illegal, Hames could serve jail time.
Once the County releases the information requested in our public record requests, we will update this story. Based on our experience on the timeliness of other investigations underway, we aren’t holding our breath.
District Attorney Langer, County Commissioner Carmona, and Austin Osborne declined to comment on this article.
If you have any information on the Hames dismissal, or any other matter, we encourage you to contact us. As always, we will protect your anonymity.
The Email Trail – to see all 36 pages click on the arrows at the bottom of the page
These emails appear to show new fees were being charged as early as August 2017 while the Commissioners didn’t appear to approve them until mid to late 2018.Confidential Emails
Examples of Overcharging
Tesla #1Example Permit 10070 13
Tesla #2Example Permit 10070 14
Tesla #3Example Permit 10070 58
BBCS ContractContract for Professional Services of Independent Contractor - ComDev - Storey Co