County officials blast The Teller for writing about the facts they provide.
- What did I know about the payments and the Government Service Agreement (GSA) and when did I know it.
- Kris Thompson and Austin Osborne say Telsa is current with all their payments under the GSA.
- Austin Osborne makes two contradictory statements and confirms the accuracy of The Teller’s previous Tesla article.
Storey County Manager Austin Osborne responded to the article I pushed last week about Tesla. In that article, I wrote about the documents they provided and the testimony made on the record.
All the information I reported was based on information gleaned from that reviled terrific tool of transparency, the public record request. The two basic claims in the article were:
- Tesla did not make the last three payments.
- Tesla has not come to the table to renegotiate the GSA.
These statements were factual when I wrote the piece based on the public records provided by the County and statements made on the record by County officials over the past 18 months. Period.
Fake News vs. Fake News Makers
I wrote my article based on a tip I got from a source inside the Courthouse. No, I won’t reveal who it was for obvious reasons. Thanks to Nevada’s Supreme Court, I don’t have to. My tipster told me Tesla was two payments behind and “they won’t even return our calls” to renegotiate the terms of the GSA.
Setting into action, I fired off three separate public record requests on December 18th. The first sought a copy of the GSA. The second sought all payments made under that agreement. Finally, I wanted to see how much the “Tesla Ladder Fire Truck” cost the taxpayers. You can find all the documents the county sent me at the end of this article except for the cost of the ladder truck which Controller Hugh Gallagher provided to me verbally over the phone.
What Did I Know and When Did I Know It?
As Senator Baker asked during Nixon’s Impeachment Trial, “What did he know and when did he know it?”
The Government Service Agreement
The same source told me Tesla had failed to renegotiate the GSA that lapsed on June 30, 2018. Whitten talked about the Tesla deal several times during that period. Nicole Barde wrote about it in bardeblog.com and quoted Whitten in three or four meetings during that time.
First off, Storey County Manager Pat Whitten lamented about Tesla blowing him off as early as May of 2018.
Pat Whitten said that the Service Agreement negotiation meeting with Tesla was cancelled by them and will need to be rescheduled ASAP. He said that they need to sit down soon since the Ordinance giving them reduced fees on a number of items expires with this budget year. Pat said that since Tesla’s current Service Agreement funds 2 people if they don’t reup that the supporting headcount in Community Development goes from 3 down to 1 and that will bring them to a standstill.
While you can’t find any audio or video recordings of any public meeting on any county website anywhere, thanks to the (previously) thankless work of Jed Margolis you can listen to Pat’s own words as uttered on the record here:
Thank you, Jed
Thank you for providing real transparency in contrast to the county who shares only a fraction of what they have and proclaims total transparency. If you want the complete listing beginning May 21st, 2012 of what the county won’t share, visit Jed’s example of actual transparency here.
The GSA came up again during the June 4th, 2019 meeting when the idea of keeping Whitten on the County Payroll with the other Cronies by awarding him a sole-source consulting contract was floated. On the juicy list of things Whitten would handle was negotiating the Tesla agreement. According to County officials on the record, the GSA had not been re-upped or renegotiated or whatever as of June 5th, 2019. According to my alleged memory, I know of no ordinance passed by the Commission revising the GSA since that time.
Payments Made Under The Service Agreement
I received the service agreement and the Tesla payment history from the County on December 23rd. All 58 pages of it. The last payment was made on May 30, 2019, in the amount of $417,563.01. Storey Count received no payments for the first, second or third quarter of FY19-20. While the dollar amount of these payments under the GSA fluctuated during the term of the contract, the previous three payments were all $417,563.01 (see the payment record at the end of this article). Because of this, I calculated the total due from Tesla over the next three quarters would 3 quarterly payments of $417,563.01 or $1,252,689.03.
Fake News vs. Fake News Makers redux
After my article broke, Commissioner Gilman’s banty rooster proxy Kris Thompson howled indignantly on the Virginia City Highlands email chat group. At the January 21st Commission meeting, McBride once again played his trusty “Fake News” card. McBride specifically, and the County in general, love to pull this card whenever their facts run contrary to their spin.
Then on January 20th, Thompson cockle-doodle-dooed about how Tesla had made their payment and was current on the agreement:
I just was informed and brought up to date on the Tesla payments to the County.THEY ARE CURRENT ON THEIR PAYMENTS.Let me repeat that: TESLA IS CURRENT ON THEIR PAYMENTS TO STOREY COUNTY.
Austin Osborne seemed to confirm this in his County Manager’s address on January 21st. However, if you listen closely to what he actually says you might do a double-take as I did when he mentions the check. Here is his news/fake news statement:
Because I am being called a liar, again, let’s micro-focus on his statements one at a time:
“2019 and 20 I believe everything is current. We are going through all the documents and correspondence to guarantee that…”
The County just went through all the documents when you filled my public record request on December 23rd. I went through them too and didn’t find any documents reflecting payments made in the first or second quarters.
“I did have a check for 164 or so in my hands about three weeks ago and that was for the first quarter of this fiscal year.”
We are in the third quarter of FY19-20. If that check you had in your hands was the first quarter, they still owe for the second and third quarters. How can they be current? Is your first statement a misstatement? Fake news? A lie?
“In 2018 it went to a lesser rate because the company believed that the building would be completed…”
According to the invoice from the 4th quarter of FY17-18 which you can read below, the payment was $404,155.88. 3rd Quarter FY17-18 was $240,393.63. The payment made for the 4th quarter 18-19 was $417,563.01. So the payments have gone up, not down. Misstatement? Fake news? A lie?
My head spins with confusion.
On December 18th, 2019I filed the three public record requests mentioned above. On December 23rd Austin Osborne filled them which you can see below. Thanks to the holidays and other events I didn’t post the article until January 18th. As of January, 18th of the article, I reported on the facts provided by the county.
I came to two conclusions based on those facts:
- The GSA had not been renegotiated since June of 2018 based on the available testimony and the absence of a County Ordinance revising the terms or any mention of the GSA on the record since mid-2019.
- The amount of $1,252,689.03 was calculated based on the three previous payments. Three consecutive quarters of missed payments at $417563.01 = $1,252,689.03
I made two assumptions to come to my conclusions:
- The data as of December 23rd was accurate and used it in my article. I also assumed that if the data changed materially, the County would send that along.
- I assumed the county had not renegotiated the GSA payment structure. According to Austin’s audio above, that is still correct.
A reasonable reader might expect the County to let me know they received the latest check as a matter of professional courtesy.
Apparently, you are wrong, gentle reasonable reader.
I will file yet a third news article on this once my latest round of Public Record Requests are filled. Ugh.
I sent County Manager Austin Osborne the following email with questions whose answers would help provide clarity on this subject. I waited 48 hours for his response which is not forthcoming. Should he answer, I will update this article.
- When was the service agreement cost structure of $417,563.01 changed to the new figure of “around 164k or there so” as you testified on the record?
- How was the service agreement cost structure changed? Negotiation? Ordinance?
- You said Tesla is current with their payments, yet you gave evidence of Tesla’s current status by saying you received the $164k check “about three weeks ago for the first quarter of the current fiscal year”. As we are into the third quarter of the current fiscal year, how can they be current if they only made the first quarter payment? What about the second and third quarter payments?
- Why wasn’t this payment included in my public record request 2019-44?
- If the payment was made days after the request, why didn’t you forward it to me knowing I was looking for that specific information?
Austin Responded to the email on Friday :
TESLA Payments 2015-2019
General Services Agreement
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