Hames Claims Wrongful Termination
Lawyers for Former Fire Chief and Community Development Director Gary Hames filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus with the First District Court against Storey County. The petition, dated July 1, 2019, is in response to his abrupt firing and allegations levied by a whistleblower and published in The Teller.
Up to this point, the County has said out of one side of its mouth that they fired him and won’t talk because it’s “personnel matter” and he did a such a magnificent job he worked himself out of a job out of the other. At the June 18th Commissioner meeting, Lance Gilman and Jay Carmona said they needed more information on the matter and requested a closed meeting session.
Assistant District Attorney Keith Loomis advised Gilman and Carmona the County could not legally hold a closed session. Loomis then agreed to brief each Commissioner individually about the details of Hames’ termination in private. The commissioners continued the matter to yesterdays meeting so those meetings could take place.
At yesterday’s meeting, the matter was once again continued, presumably in light of the claims brought forward in Mr. Hames’ Writ. During the Pat Whitten contract agenda item, there was some interesting public comment from Hames family member Steve Ayers. More on that later.
Comes Now Gary Hames
In the document filed with the court, Hames suggests he was fired for instituting a fee raise. An anonymous whistleblower sent documents to The Teller that appear to make the same case. In contrast, Commissioner McBride and Assistant District Attorney Keith Loomis used terms like sunshine and lollypops to describe the happy parting of ways. According to the only information released publicly on the matter, Gary Hames did a spectacular job. Commissioner McBride announced to the world that the Community Director Position has been become wholly unnecessary and will remain vacant.
According to his writ, Mr. Hames wanted to raise rates charged by Community Development. According to Hames, Resolution 08-269 authorized these rates for both Fire Department Construction permits and the Storey County Building Department. For some reason, The County implemented the rates for Fire permits but not for Building Department permits.
District Attorney Approved Fee Increase and Then Fired Hames For Increasing Fees
According to his writ, Hames contacted the District Attorney for an opinion on the Resolution from 2008. Hames claims the “Storey County District Attorney’s Office informed the Petitioner (Hames) that Resolution No. 08-269 was the effective ordinance and permit fees should be calculated accordingly”. The writ goes on to claim the District Attorney’s Office drafted a resolution consolidating all construction permit application fees which were later passed by the Storey County Commission. The Teller has filed a public record request for any communication on Resolution No. 08-269 between the DA and Hames. Should the County deliver on this request we will let you know. Don’t hold your breath waiting.
Fun Fact: The Teller requested the Resolutions mentioned in the writ from County Clerk Vanessa Stephens. In stunning contrast to the rest of the county, including Commissioners Carmona and Gilman, Stephens delivered resolutions from 2003, 2004 and 2008 within the hour. Vanessa Stephens is the winner of the intergalactic transparency award from The Teller. The rest of the County should take notes from Vanessa Stephens on how to fulfill a public record request. You can find each resolution as well as the writ Hames filed at the end of this article.
Sign up and never miss a beat
At some point after giving permission to raise rates using Resolution No. 08-269, the District Attorney turned around and began investigating Hames for illegally raising the rates. According to the writ, the county contracted with the Law Office of Allison MacKenzie to investigate Hames despite an alleged conflict of interest. Storey County terminated Hames’ contract in May of 2019. The County paid Hames on his contract through June of 2019 after firing him on April 21st, 2019.
Whistleblower Identity Alleged Sans Proof
After Hames ordered staff to implement the fee hike, people in the office opposed the move. Hames named Sarah Dillon as the person who violated Storey County Code and Nevada law by supplying an-unnamed “local blogger” (The Teller) the documents.
We are assuming that Gary Hames has some other source of information to identify Ms. Dillon. We sent the packet of information we received directly to Hames’ attorney. There was absolutely nothing in the packet to identify anyone as the source of the documents. Trust us, we looked. While it is pretty clear that these documents came from Community Development, whoever sent the packet to us did a careful job not to leave any identifying traces on the package or documents. To suggest that the documents we sent Hames’ attorney identify anyone are not based in any fact.
Fun Fact: As a journalist, I am on the record as saying I will go to jail before I reveal my sources. Much to the angst of some folks who aren’t acquainted with the First Amendment or wish it was in the shredder, this is still how things get done in these United States. Deal with it.
Just Like Any Contract With Any Contractor? Um, No.
During public comment, Steve Ayers asked Commissioner McBride if the county planned to put in place procedures that would prevent the unfair manner in which Hames was unceremoniously fired. Although he refused to answer questions from other members of the public, In his answer to Ayers’ question, Commissioner McBride said that Whitten’s contract would be “just like any other contract with any other contractor”.
Sadly, this is simply not true. When “any other contractor” gets into hot water, they won’t be protected by the cloak of “personnel matter” invulnerability. So no, Mr. Ayers, we will not change the status quo for Mr. Whitten. That’s why we call it the Status Quo
Same. As. It. Ever. Was.
The Commissioners removed the refund of $71,266.97 from yesterday’s meeting agenda. Presumably, it was because of Hames’ filing. With the accusations levied at the District Attorney’s Office, and the fact that Hames was able to bank $250k last year in contract and retirement funds there should be enough cash to fuel a juicy legal battle. Dust your popcorn maker off because this could be an ongoing story here in The Richest Place On Earth…