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Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
November 27, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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November 27, 1997

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Pahrump Valley Gazette, Thursday, November 27, 1997 15 Nicholson's problem: and a "smoking gun" It must be pretty easy to shoot yourself in the foot while panicing because you feel you're about to be caught with a gun in your hand that is still smoking from a deed previously committed. The self-inflicted shot in the foot occurred on November 18, 1997 at the Nye County Commission meeting in Pahr- ump when it was revealed that the County Manager's Assis- tant, Rachel Nicholson, was refusing to sign a voucher authorizing payment for a county vehicle that had been purchased by the Nye County Assessor, Bernie Merlino. The "smoking gun" surfaced two days later on November 20, 1997 when it was pub- ] ]1 ] lished in this column that THIS MAN;S OPINION Nicholson had authorized and directed that the payment of her own salary be done in by Brent Mathewson a manner that was in direct violation of a vote by the Nye County Commission. Some words of explanation are necessary in order to untangle the twisted logic of this unfolding melodrama. On October 7, 1997 Mr. Merlino went before the Com- mission and requested permission to spend between $15,000 to $22,000 to replace his county vehicle which was ten years old, had in excess of 184,000 miles on it, and was becoming unreliable. The commission voted to approve the expendi- ture of the higher amount, $22,000. The intention was fGr Merlino to purchase the vehicle from the Salt Lake City Sheriffs office in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mr. Merino in- quired to the Salt Lake City representatives for availability of a vehicle and was informed the there were none at the time. Merlino kept his eyes and ears open and through dili- gence on his part was made aware of a Rental Vehicle Fleet Elimination sale offered by Allstate Car Rental and Sales in Reno, Nevada. There was a three day window of opportu- nity within which to act, after which the remaining vehicles would be sold to used car dealers across the country. Merlino travelled to Reno, selected a 1996 Buick Cen- tury with 27,458 miles on it, and signed a contract to purchase the vehicle for a total price of $13,216.50. This price is about $2,000 below low Kelly Blue Book value on the vehicle in question. Merlino drove the car home, parked it in his back yard, and submitted the sales contract to county administration for payment. Nicholson refused to sign the required voucher authoriz- ing payment of the contract claiming that the reason for her refusal was that Merlino had failed to go through the required bid process on purchases in excess of $10,000. "That's not the way we do things in Nye County," she has stated. What a joke! Nicholson is an attorney. The Nevada Statute that she is referring to is known as the "Local Government Purchasing Act." The relevant language re- quiting an ad'ertised bid process on purchases in excess of $10,000 is found in NRS 332.035. The act provides excep- tions to the bid requirement. NRS 332.146-1 states: "Except as otherwise provided by law, if the chief administrative officer of the local govern- ment concurs with the authorized representative that the supplies, materials or equipment can be purchased at any public auction, closeout sale, bankruptcy sale, sale or mer- chandise left over after an exhibition or other similar sale at a reasonable savings over the cost of like merchandise and below the market cost in the community, a contract or contracts may be let or the purchase made without comply- ing with the requirements of this chapter for competitive bidding." The larger joke is that Nye County, on a continuing, ongoing and regular basis, circumvents and ignores the actual requirements of the advertised bid process. On the other hand when the county does go to an advertised bid, the bid contracts, which are written and generated by county administration, are written and timed so as to benefit only the chosen few that Nye County seems so adamant in doing business with. Nichoison's bitch, if indeed she has one, would seem to be a resentment that Mr. Merlino's frugality resulted in the county expending less than the full authorized amount or $22,000. Is Nicholson fearful that if 40 percent savings of this type were to become a regular habit in Nye County that things like impact fees, quarter cent sales tax increases and school bond issues wouldn't even need to be discussed? The "smoking gun" that Nicholson is still holding in her hand is in the form of a memo, dated October 21, 1996, from her to Danna Motis directing that Nichoison's salary be funded by a 50/50 split between the Nye County General Fund and Yucca Mountain Reposi- tory money. Nicholson's memo to Motis states that funding the position in this manner would be, "pursuant to action taken by the board of commis- sioners on September 17 and October 1, 1996." Let's forget for the moment that Nicholson's transfer at the time, from the District Attorney's office to Nye County Administration, was an invalid act that resulted from offi- cial county documents being voided and tampered with. Let's just concentrate on Nicholson's proposed method of funding her salary and see what problems arise. First, an examination of the minutes oftbe September 17, 1996 commission meeting reveal that the commission voted 4-0-1, with Jeff Taguchi abstaining, to fund Nicholson's position 100 percent out of the nuclear waste repository grants attached to the Yucca Mountain Project. Second, the creation of Nicholson's position was done in direct contradiction to Nye County Resolution 96-13, dated June 6, 1996 which enacted a county-wide hiring freeze. Third, despite Nicholson's claim to the contrary in her memorandum to Motis that the 50/50 split of the funding for her position would be, "Pursuant to action of the board of commissioners," there is no written record of authority for this memo. Fourth, even though the source of funding was autho- rized to extend from repository funds the duties Nicholson performed on behalf of the repository were minimal in relation to the actual salary received. In fact, in a letter from Nick Stellavato, the on-site Geotechnical Representative at the Nuclear Waste Repository Office (NWRPO), dated October 14, 1996, to Mr. Wesley E. Barnes, of the U.S. Department of Energy, Stellavato states in pertinent part, "I want to state up front that the only support Ms. Nicholson is giving to NWRPO is very limited contractual support re- quired to carry out the present technical program." Because of Stellavato's letter and other information avail- able, there is a clear indication that money paid to Nicholson out of Yucca Mountain Repository Funds was a serious violation of the terms of the Federal Grant involved and had placed Nye County in jeopardy of being able to receive grant money of this type in the future. The Nye County Commission, plus the County Manager and his assistant, would much prefer that the reader did not have information of the type contained in this article at your disposal. They believe that if you just weren't aware of these things then you wouldn't have to think about them. It's the Nye County method. And it needs to change. That is this man's opinion. copyright 1997 by Brent Mathewson Service Forum Pahrump's Only Complete One Stop Music Malt Instruments; Lessons  Sales, Service, Rentals & Repair i/ Caslr, mtll TmpJ 4- Cp, mct Dlk ': ** StartJna mt $4. tape S?.S)9 dlmc.F" / Jeffrey A. 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