By Mark Waite
Applicants for a brothel license will no longer have to meet a requirement stating they have been a Nevada resident for at least six months, if a bill introduced Friday is passed by the Nye County Commission.
Prostitutes also could be making annual instead of quarterly license payments.
The requirement to be a Nevada resident at least six months was the grounds for part of a lawsuit filed by Kenneth Green, Debbie Rivenburgh and Western Best Ltd. in 2009 after the Nye County Commission denied the sale of the Chicken Ranch brothel partly for that reason on June 19, 2007. The possible owner, Bruce Kahn, sole member of TCR Holdings, had a residence in Dallas, Texas, but maintained an office in Carson City.
The Chicken Ranch was being sold for $5.25 million. TCR Holdings also filed suit. One of the claims alleged Nye County was trying to eliminate brothels by attrition. They claimed the residency requirement violated Kahn’s 14th amendment rights.
The two lawsuits were consolidated, Nye County Commissioners approved an $87,500 settlement last December.
The lawsuit claimed the requirement was construed to mean a brothel license wouldn’t be issued to a person with a domicile in another state, even if the applicant would be physically present in Nye County or willing to relocate to Nye County if the license were approved.
The revisions to Nye County Code 9.20 governing prostitution merely strikes that residency requirement from the contents required for the license application. The license application must also include names, ages, addresses and fingerprints of persons who have an interest or are personally responsible for the brothel operation. It requires applicants to list other businesses in which they have a financial interest; all their employers; addresses, prior arrests and convictions; an audited, financial statement; their occupation for the last 10 years; their brothel history and a legal description of the property. The rest of the applicant requirements remain intact.
“It was a change in the residency requirement that was determined to be unconstitutional. That’s a couple years old but it hasn’t been changed yet,” Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said, who requested the bill.
While planning to change the ordinance on residency, Wichman said a brothel manager suggested the prostitutes could pay their licensing fee annually, instead of quarterly.
Commissioner Joni Eastley said she was starting to get calls from houses of prostitution about that proposal. Some of the girls may only be working on the premises for three months or less, she said.
Under the ordinance the prostitutes would pay a $500 annual fee for brothel cards instead of $125 quarterly, the money goes into the county general fund to be distributed to the veterans service office. Applicants must supply a photograph and a set of fingerprints, their five-year employment history, list any prior arrests or convictions and provide a valid health certificate. They are ineligible to receive a brothel card if they have been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude, made a false statement or are under 21.
Eastley said brothel owners complained, “If they pay all the fees up front on an annual basis many of them can’t afford to do that.”
Wichman said that change came primarily after discussions about ways to reduce the Nye County sheriff’s department budget. The sheriff’s staff has to renew the prostitutes’ brothel cards every three months, she said.
Wichman said George Flint, a representative of the Nevada Brothel Association told her some of the prostitutes move from house to house and would have to pay their annual licensing fee every time they move.
“I thought it would be a good idea because it would free up some time in the sheriff’s department and I thought it would also be easier on the girls who were making the trip to Beatty or to Pahrump,” Wichman said.
The discussion Friday was just during the introduction of the bill, during which commissioners set a time, date and location for a public hearing. The bill was scheduled for a hearing at the next county commissioners’ meeting in Tonopah on Dec. 4.
Wichman believes some of the brothel owners will be at the public hearing.