When reporting on the Storey County Commission meetings, we typically report on what happened during the meetings. Up to this point, we haven’t reported on upcoming meeting agendas to discuss items that the commissioners will vote on. On June 12th, 2019, Storey County posted the Agenda of the June 18th meeting. As we read over the 45 items that will make up the meeting, we couldn’t help read some of these items and shake our heads.
No Packet = No Participation
Although the Agenda was released a day earlier than NRS requires, as of June 16th at 7:00, no packet has been posted. A typical packet runs 300-600 pages long. Each agenda item could contain complex information that requires careful reading. Given the detail of what this meeting will consist of, it will be next to impossible for any of us in the public to analyze all of the supporting information the packet will contain.
By withholding the information to the last minute, public participation is basically impossible. This is consistent with the way that Storey County treats the public. The Teller has reported on how Storey County consistently says they invite public participation and consistently proves they want no part of the public interfering with the way they make the sausage. From parking public record requests dying at the District Attorney’s Office to forcing the public to wait hours before they can make public comment at the meetings, Storey County’s message is clear: The Public Comes Last.
We Come Last. Dead Last.
If we can’t see the information behind the 45 items on the June 18th meeting, how are we supposed to formulate the questions to hold them accountable to their proposed decisions? All of the items that make it to a vote are typically approved. In fact, I can’t remember a single time an item has been shot down.
There are eight budget augmentation items that will be passed. This is where Comptroller Gallagher juggles the books to get them to budget. It would be great to know how creatively Hugh will shuffle funds around to appease the Department of Taxation. Any detail that helps us follow the shells to see where the money is hiding would be helpful. Sadly, the public can’t see the shells, much less the money.
If the only people who know what the details of the items being passed at meeting time are the County Manager and the Commissioners, then what is the point of including the public in the process?
Storey County, where the constituents come last. Dead Last.
Short Items, Tall Consequences
Item 34 is short and sweet. Possible approval of Resolution 19-545, Setting the Storey County Tax Rate Levy for 2019/2020. We know the Storey County Tax Rate will be (presumably) passed, but we don’t know how. Should we show up and protest raising taxes? Should we show up and praise the lowering of taxes? Without the detail from the packet, who knows? This should concern the public as much as it concerns us here at The Teller.
Storey County Cronies Cost Taxpayers
Item 35 is equally short. Consideration and possible approval of refund of excess funds paid for community development permits in the amount of $71,266.97. This confirms that Commissioner McBride and Assistant District Attorney Loomis were not forthcoming with clarity and truthfulness when they praised former Fire Chief Gary Hames for doing such a great job in getting the Community Development Department to run itself just before they fired him.
As we reported with whistleblower information, Gary Hames illegally overcharged members of the Storey County Community. People building their new homes and businesses like Tesla were ripped off by Hames. Yet he was praised by McBride and Loomis for his great work. And then his contract was canceled.
I will request the County sue Mr. Hames to compensate the County for the money we refund the people and companies injured by Hames’ presumed reckless behavior. I say presumed because The Teller has a public record request to discover the extent of this behavior. Although DA Langer promised The Teller this information by May 20th, phone calls, emails and office visits have failed to see her deliver.
County Manager Pat Whitten insisted that Crony Hames was the only person on the planet with the “Institutional Knowledge” required to run the Department. Now the County line says the department really doesn’t any “Institutional Knowledge”. The chutzpah required to feed us this nonsense is simply amazing.
Storey County Cronies Cost Taxpayers. Again
Thankfully, this will be the last meeting that Pat Whitten convenes as County Manager. However, like all Cronies who retire in Storey County, Pat won’t be going away any time soon. If you read the Commissioner Carmona’s breakdown of the last Commission Meeting (which will soon be the “official” breakdown printed in the taxpayer-funded Comstock Comical), you wouldn’t know that Pat has plans to stay on the dole. To his credit, Whitten didn’t fail to mention it in his summary.
At the June 4th meeting, Whitten planted the seeds for own juicy contract so he can wield his own critical “Institutional Knowledge”. Just like his Cronies Gary Hames and Mike Nevin, Storey County Taxpayers continue to be the givers of the gifts that keeps on giving.
During the last meeting, Whitten listed a schmear of things that Austin Osborne simply can’t handle. We respond by asking the question: Why are we hiring Austin Osborne if he can’t do the job? If there are things that he can’t do, he isn’t the man for the job. That’s what’s implied when, I mean if, the Commissioners approve this contract tomorrow.
Do we know what the contract even is? Is there a limit to the number of hours he can fleece us with every month? Do we know if there is a clawback clause should this contract end up like the Hames contract (seems to have) ended?
At the time of this posting, 28 hours before the Meeting, nobody except the County knows.
Storey County, where the constituents come last. Dead Last.
Expect Expenses to Rise. Again
Item 38. Approval of modification and extension of (the) Collective Bargaining Agreement between Storey County (Employer) and the Storey County Employees Association AFSCME Local 4041 Comstock Chapter (Union). Anytime you talk to the union you can pretty much rest assured the union members will benefit and taxpayers will do their job. County Employees compensation packages will likely continue to rise but by how much? Nobody but the County and the Union knows.
Storey County Cronies Cost Taxpayers. Again. And Again.
Item 38. Authorize the County Manager to purchase up to 2 years of PERS retirement credits for Hugh Gallagher in an amount not to exceed $73,000.00.
While certain members of the County are H-E-Double-Toothpicks bent on opacity (cough DA Langer cough), with the exception of Vanessa Stephens, there is nobody in County Government more transparent than Hugh Gallagher. That is why it is so disappointing to see this item come up. I’m guessing Hugh didn’t actually ask for this and it’s Pat Whitten’s idea. Hopefully, this is the last time Pat Whitten can feather the nest of a county employee with taxpayer feathers.
Storey County Cronies Come First. The Constituents Come Last.
People at the top of the Storey County food chain have a long track record of keeping us in the dark. By keeping critical information from the public thereby discouraging our participation in our local government they continue to send a consistent and disturbing message: You come last. Dead last.
It’s not too early to think about the ramifications of the 2020 election. Unlike 2016, Storey County voters have the chance to choose new Commissioners to replace McBride and Gillman and change the status quo.
¡Hasta la Victoria, Siempre!
As we mentioned, Vanessa Stephens is perhaps the most transparent person in the county. It is her job to get the packet out. We reached out to her and she told us she would have released the packet earlier, but she ran into technical difficulties. The packet was posted at 8:00 am this morning. It contains heavy reading which we hope the Commissioners engage in before they vote on the items before them tomorrow. You can read all 310 pages of it here…
In a county not very far away (where I used to live) when things like this happened I went either to the commissioners office and then their home and ask them to xerox me a copy for my review. I think they get a copy 7 days ahead. It only takes one time going to their house (at dinner time) and the problem goes away.
Just a thought
We updated the article to reflect our conversation with County Clerk Vanessa Stephens. She confirmed she had difficulties posting the packet earlier. I am guessing it would be difficult for them to copy the entire packet due to its volume. I also doubt the current commissioners would copy anything for me if I showed up to their house… 😀