By Mark Waite
County commissioners failed to get a quorum of the board Tuesday to hire outgoing Commissioner Joni Eastley as the new assistant county manager.
But County Manager Pam Webster said she’ll bring the appointment back for ratification when a new board takes office next month.
Commissioner Gary Hollis was unavailable to cast his vote due to heart surgery this week. Eastley recused herself from voting, leaving three commissioners to decide.
Commission Chairman Lorinda Wichman asked to step down as chairman so she could second Commissioner Dan Schinhofen’s motion to appoint Eastley.
But Commissioner Butch Borasky didn’t go along.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in this county that knows more than she does, but I have heartburn for a couple things, knowing she advocates openly for splitting the county, not being shy about saying that. It makes me concerned with the progressive chain of assistant county manager popping into county manager,” Borasky said.
He added he’d like to see the contract up front, not after they ratify the county manager’s choice, similar to when they hired former County Manager Rick Osborne.
“I’d like something written in her contract that if she goes back to advocating for splitting the county that she be terminated immediately. That’s a huge problem for me. I put 16 years in the county, supporting the county, to have someone go into a management position that can manipulate things real quick,” Borasky said.
Webster said an assistant county manager would have to follow the policy set by commissioners, and that any deviation would result in disciplinary action, even dismissal. “I believe splitting the county would have to be a board position. If anybody in my staff does not follow board policy, I take exception immediately,” she said.
Commissioners remarked it would be hard to find someone with more experience for the job. Wichman said she’s been involved in county business since 2000 and it’d be hard to find anybody with better qualifications than Eastley.
Schinhofen had concerns Eastley didn’t meet the educational qualifications, which called for a masters degree in public administration, but he was satisfied the job description allowed for someone with the equivalent in experience.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who has the equivalent qualifications that Ms. Eastley does and I think she’d be great. It’d be a shame to lose her at this point, she’d contribute greatly to the county,” Schinhofen said.
Wichman said Eastley would be an at-will employee who could be fired for advocating such a position as Borasky described.
Webster had planned to bring a contract back for approval later. The Tuesday vote was only to ratify Webster’s choice.
Borasky said he wanted to review all the applications. District Attorney Brian Kunzi said the county commission normally hires only the county manager, who then hires all the other employees. But the intent was to groom the new assistant county manager for the county manager job, since Webster is expected to retire in December 2013.
Wichman said commissioners will get a chance to review all the applicants for county manager at that time.
“It’s not something I’m going to be able to decide today. I have to continue soul searching on this,” Borasky said after the failed vote. “I’ve already said she’s probably the best person we could ever find. I just got a couple of things in the back of my mind rolling around that make my blood pressure go up and I don’t need that right now. We’ll do it the first meeting of next year.”
Eastley has been a Nye County commissioner for 12 years, she is term limited after her third term. An Ohio native who worked for Central Telephone Company of Lorain, Ohio from 1974 to 1984, she moved with her husband and two sons to Nevada and eventually found work at Round Mountain Gold Corporation in the human resources department from 1984 to 1998.
In her time on the Nye County Commission since January 2000 she’s been appointed to the rural subcommittee of the Indigent Defense Commission; appointed to the state’s Renewable Energy Strike Force; appointed to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Southern District Resource Advisory Council; appointed to the Blue Ribbon Panel on Renewable Energy; served 12 years on the Nevada Airports Association and 12 years on the Nevada Association of Counties Board of Directors; helped form the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority; built up the Nye County History Program; developed the Nye County renewable energy and Brownfields redevelopment programs and was appointed to the Nuclear Project Commission, the Commission on Aging and the Indigent Medical Commission.
Eastley said she wasn’t aware of the outcome after the meeting, as she had to recuse herself from the room, but she wasn’t surprised at the outcome.
Eastley said she hasn’t researched splitting Nye County for several months, after reaching the conclusion it couldn’t be done without hurting one area or another.
Incoming commissioner Frank Carbone, upon Eastley’s advice, wouldn’t comment on how he would vote when he takes office next month. But when Eastley, a Tonopah native, was asked if she would return to Pahrump, Carbone said she would return.
Newly-elected Commissioner Donna Cox was on vacation and wasn’t present for the meeting.