Will the Pahrump Town Board be dissolved, or won’t it?
That’s what town and county officials want to know as they patiently await the Nevada Supreme Court.
The court is through taking briefs and must now determine whether to hear the town’s appeal or simply refuse it, allowing a lower court ruling backing the county’s ballot question — which voters passed in 2012 — to stand, thereby reverting the independent town board into an advisory body.
Two attorneys from Armstrong Teasdale in Reno filed the latest brief on the town’s behalf just last week.
The Oct. 7 filing states in part, “The Town of Pahrump is entitled to summary judgment on its claim for declaratory relief, because the Board of County Commissioners of Nye County failed to make the determination required by the plain and unambiguous language of NRS269.022. Not only did the county fail to follow state law in placing the question on the ballot, its commissioners refused to debate the best form of government for the residents of Pahrump, and the commissioners expressly stated that by their vote they were not making a determination,” the document states.
County commissioners voted to place a ballot question dissolving the town board prior to last year’s general election.
The item was passed by voters, albeit by a slim margin.
While the question essentially allowed local voters to turn the Pahrump Town Board into a powerless advisory body, one thing remains to be seen: Did the Nye County Board of Commissioners perform its due diligence prior to allowing the question to be put on the ballot?
Town board members say no.
“The county was supposed to do the fact finding about determining what the best interests of the people were in the town. They didn’t even come close to what was required by the NRS. That kind of fact finding in my mind for example would be for the county to see if we don’t run our budget right or that we are in debt. They chose not to learn whether we provide the services that we are charged with doing for the people,” said town board Chair Harley Kulkin.
Earlier this year, District Judge Robert Lane sided with the county when he ruled that commissioners didn’t appear to violate any state law when they voted to place the question before voters.
Kulkin said Lane’s ruling was flat wrong and the county did not do what was required by state law.
“The town’s budget is flawless and the auditor, Mr. McArthur, does the audits for the county and the town never finds anything wrong with the town, but he finds plenty wrong with the county. People don’t seem to understand that we are only in charge of the parks, the ambulance, the fire department and the cemetery’s, none of which anybody has any complaints. They just don’t understand because they came from a city and not an unincorporated town,” he said.
Kulkin said Lane’s ruling amounted to politics more than anything.
“I think Judge Lane was just playing politics because he’s going to be running for re-election. The bottom line is that if he did reverse his decision, he would be reversing the decision of the voters even though they were extremely ill-informed for the most part. Some people are just antigovernment and hate everything so every chance they get to take down something, they are going to go for it,” he said.Nye County District 4 Commissioner Butch Borasky said he stands behind the actions of his colleagues on the board and maintains that the county did indeed follow the letter of the law in terms of what the best interests are for Pahrump residents.
“The county allowed it to go on the ballot and the board of county commissioners decided it was in the best interests of the county to do away with form of government. There was debate on it and plenty of us stated our reasons either in that meeting or a previous meeting,” he said.
Borasky is one of two commissioners who regularly attend town board meetings.
Though town board behavior is not specifically cited in the NRS as a reason to disband the town board, Borasky’s conclusion was based on just that.
He said he was distressed about what he witnessed from time to time during town board meetings which weighed heavily on his own decision to let voters determine if the town board should continue to exist as a body unto itself.
Borasky also mentioned that he received numerous phone calls from local residents complaining about certain individuals on the town board.
“Plenty of us stated during those meetings about the behavior of the town board members, two in particular, the lack of courtesy, the outright disdain for the people in the community. When we voted on that, we voted unanimously to do that. They can argue it all they want,” he said.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said during a commission meeting that he was in favor of ordering the ballot question because he too had been bombarded with concerns from residents about the operations of the town board.
The calls led him to conclude the current town board government was not in the best interests of the residents.
Town Board member Dr. Tom Waters said on Monday that no one is certain when and even if the Supreme Court will render a final decision on the appeal.
“We do know that they plan to expedite it and that just means it could be between 24 hours and 24 months. They really have as much time as they want. We are hoping they’ll have a decision by the end of 2014. I for one think that the town has a very good case and I see no reason why the Supreme Court would not find that the town was correct in saying that the county did not follow Nevada law,” he said.