We sure found it curious last week when county commissioners voted to nix longtime contract medical examiner Rexene Worrell’s employment only to reverse the decision a few hours later.
Before lunch the board voted 3-2 to get rid of Worrell. After lunch, the board voted 4-1 to keep her.
Discussion by the board? Not much. Except maybe some illegal discussions behind closed doors that we will never be able to prove. Maybe some serial communication took place. Maybe not.
Bone headed politics in action? Sure thing.
What sparked all this appears to be a mixture of hurt feelings, favors to a friend and stupidity.
First, the hurt feelings stem from a falling out between Worrell and local funeral homes. Worrell used to perform autopsies at the mortuaries but now has her own storefront — to earn extra money she sells bootleg CSI videos and old “Quincy, M.E.” coffee mugs. (That last part we’re still trying to confirm.)
Worrell employs a technician to help her move bodies and to generally assist her during the autopsy process. This technician is a former employee of Lee Funeral Homes. The technician is embroiled in a legal dispute with Lee Funeral Homes. As a way to get back at this technician, who quit his job at the mortuary, Lee had asked Worrell to sack the person.
She refuses. Apparently this has caused some friction.
Dan Schinhofen, genius politician, is also good friends, some say BFFs, with a member of the Lee family, who runs a mortuary here in Pahrump. The two are known to play Dungeons and Dragons together, if you can believe that — Schinhofen apparently plays an emotionally challenged sorcerer.
Our rotund sorcerer stuck his wand right into Worrell’s contract, never making public he was doing his good friend a favor by attempting to rid the county of her services.
Schinhofen, you see, used an affidavit Worrell signed about a decade ago that specified she wouldn’t hire any employees to try to undo her contract. Schinhofen conflated this to mean that Worrell hiring this technician to help her move bodies, paying him out of her own pocket, must mean she broke the contract and hired an employee.
Schinhofen was able to use his wizardly powers of persuasion to get fellow Pahrump commissioners Butch Borasky and Gary Hollis to vote his way. He even publicly called Worrell a liar — since the doctor is often called to be an expert witness in criminal cases, being called a liar by a public official is a super big deal.
Schinhofen should cast a magic spell on himself and disappear from public service for doing that.
Worrell works closely with the sheriff’s department. The sheriff, by law, is the county’s coroner, responsible for conducting death investigations and filing death certificates. In cases where death is the result of a crime, the sheriff depends on the medical examiner’s expertise in forensic pathology to provide sometimes crucial evidence to investigations. Without her experience and expertise, the sheriff would be forced to spend thousands and thousands of additional dollars on extra man hours and travel expenses to take bodies to Las Vegas’ medical examiner’s office — which would incur a significant cost in autopsy fees versus what Worrell currently charges.
In the budget environment the county faces, this would be akin to going on a drunken spending spree — Sheriff Tony DeMeo already gets the brunt of attention for going over his budget last year; now it would appear commissioners are inviting him to overspend this year, too. That’s not fair.
Did Schinhofen or Borasky or Hollis communicate with DeMeo about their concerns? Apparently not at all.
It’s not like having a medical examiner is a luxury item. You can’t compare hiring one with, say, paying a consultant for advice on your paltry pawn shop ordinance, or to another giveaway to a Washington lobbyist who makes you tingle when they call. A medical examiner is an absolute necessity. A good one who comes with good credentials, works well with county law enforcement and is cheaper than her next best competitor is worth every penny.
Stupid is about the only way to describe this potential disaster.
God must have sent Gary Hollis a sign along with his Denny’s Super Bird later that day. He’s the one who came back, agendized putting Worrell’s contract back on the menu, and then voted to reinstate her. Borasky changed his vote, too.
Schinhofen the sorcerer kept his vote; his BFF no doubt in the audience.
Still it might be too late.
Worrell may not even sign a new contract after she’s been treated this way. That would be a real travesty. And it could bite this county right in the keister.
When you consider that commissioners who backed this bone headed move had no one waiting to take Worrell’s place, then it’s all the more disturbing. There is no back up plan at all, except to spend a bucket load of taxpayer money for no reason should Worrell decide now not to stay.
It’s this sort of governance that peeves us. It’s reckless.
The attack on Pam Webster
We’ll be brief. The Gary Hollis Fan Club Newsletter, also known as the Mirror, published two stories this week that we suspect were planted to embarrass the county manager, Pam Webster.
One story claims that former Emergency Services Director Brent Jones is threatening to sue the county unless it pays him over $300,000 in lost pay, buy five years worth of PERS so he can retire and collect insurance, purchase a $100,000 insurance policy for him and pay him $150,000 in damages for pain and suffering among other perks. It also claims he was fired for investigating the misappropriation of funds and for, get this, rebuffing sexual advances from Webster.
We have not seen the letter — and would not in any way be surprised if the Mirror posted such a story without seeing one themselves — but sources say something like this is going around.
The supposed letter threatens the county that if Jones’ demands aren’t met by June 28, he’ll sue. It’s July 13 today, yesterday there was no such lawsuit.
We find this so ludicrous as to be laughable. This story is a plant, meant to harm Webster.
Why? Because she fired Jones and is keeping a close eye on projects he and his political sponsors, namely a little Super Bird eating cowboy, were involved with.
A second story in this tabloid was another attack on Webster, this time alluding to nepotism in the county — her daughter works in emergency services. Webster received an opinion from District Attorney Brian Kunzi about this when she became county manager. She shared it with the newsletter, who shared it with its 200 fan club members.
We suspect this story too is part of an attack on Webster orchestrated by powers upset that Rick Osborne, Brent Jones and some other future rolling heads are no longer able to exercise any authority (break the law) for them.
We sincerely hope the county manager fights back, and fight back hard.