Andy’s Newspaper column archive

Secret Meetings? ©

Since moving to Pahrump in 2002, I have held a strong interest in bringing light industry to Nye County. We are definitely water challenged so the prime issue in bringing jobs to our county should be the impact on our most precious resource, water. There has always been what I considered misguided efforts in this arena. We have seen shrimp farming, hydroponics and a water park proposed. None of these were water use neutral.

The County created an organization known as Economic Development for Esmeralda and Nye (EDEN). It was created in 2006. An agreement was made between the two counties in 2007. The stated mission for EDEN was written thus:  AEDEN is a regional development organization dedicated to building partnerships that foster sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the communities of Esmeralda and Nye Counties.@ It was set up as a 501(C)3 non profit corporation. It was not an agent of Nye or Esmeralda County.

EDEN=s board of directors hired a director who acted in the capacity as an employee who answered to the board. The economic director for EDEN was responsible only to the board of directors. All monies were handled by the Nye County Treasurers office. The effectiveness of EDEN was later questioned by Esmeralda County and they left EDEN. The name remained and it continued until 2010 when EDEN was dissolved.

In 2011 Nye County produced their Economic Development strategy in what is known as the CEDS document. They subsequently created the Nye County Regional Development Authority (NCREDA). It is structured essentially the same as EDEN except they have applied for standing as a 501(C)6 which is a proper form for their purpose. They have now, for a second time begun a search for a new Economic development director. This individual will answer to the board. EDEN, having been established under the Governors Office of Economic Development answers to them rather than to your County commissioners. There is still no one empowered to manage economic development answerable to County government. Instead NCREDA is composed of Pam Webster the County manager, Joni Eastley the Assistant County manager, Allen Parker the local representative of Rural Nevada Development Corporation, Doc McNeely a Town Board member from Amargosa, a grant writing contractor to the County and Bill Kohbarger the last Pahrump Town Manager. Their meetings are secret from the public and have they have officially denied this columnist access to their minutes. This came from the District Attorneys office on their official letterhead. The claim is that they have applied for m501 status and are not a government entity. It is still unclear why the District Attorneys office handled the response.

Although they receive government grants, have authority to spend it as needed and the organization is composed of government employees it is difficult for me to see them as a private corporation empowered to make decisions about Nye County and Pahrumps development. This has all the earmarks of secret meetings set up and run by government employees claiming privacy rights. When one looks at the structure of EDEN it is very similar to this new organization.

Now we go back to 2004. A consultant, Ann Silver with Larry Beller and Associates received a contract for $40,000 to structure the human resources department for Nye County. As part of her efforts she presented an organization chart to the Commissioners for approval and implementation. Lo and behold it had a position listed for an economic development director answering to the county manager. This document was a well designed first effort to bring a level of competency to the county management of its employees. As of this writing I am still not clear why it was not implemented. Included in this column is the chart they adopted.

I must comment on their chart. All charts determine levels of authority, staffing and who answers to whom. All charts from other government entities recognize the people as the major authority at the top of the chart. In Nye county it was and is the Commissioners. And too often they act like it.

Today the elected officials set policy, not really but they should, and the bureaucrats, employees implement them. Bad policy leads to badly run government leading to a high level of dissatisfaction by the citizens, their boss. Attend a Town board or County Commission meeting. If you can=t it is available as a video on the county web site. The dissatisfaction with actions by a majority of the officials is apparent.

Now lets go back to those secret meetings by employees who will be determining the future of Nye County jobs. If you, the citizens at the top of the county organization don=t demand why government employees are having secret meetings about the future of jobs in Nye County, then you, not the so called dissidents, are responsible for the loss of businesses and jobs in the County.

The Great State of Nevada opens the open meeting law with the following statement: A NRS 241.010  Legislative declaration and intent.  In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that all public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people=s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.@  In this case we have the appearance by government officials to circumvent the intent of the legislature. No wonder we are losing confidence in government. If you’re not going to follow the rules take them off the books.

Andrew Alberti Jr