By Mark Waite
Amargosa Valley Town Board member John Bosta may have won an argument with the district attorney Tuesday that county commissioners, not the governor’s office, should appoint members to town board vacancies.
At the same meeting, newly-elected Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox complained she was getting the short end of the stick when it came to committee assignments.
A vacancy exists on the Amargosa Valley Town Board following the death of Joe DeLee Nov. 24. Bosta wrote to the governor’s office, asking to stop their appointment process.
County Clerk Sam Merlino, in an email to Bosta, said the county commission relinquished their ability to make appointments to the governor’s office by mutual agreement because the appointments got too controversial.
Kunzi wrote in an email that county commissioners fill vacancies in county and township positions, a vague area in the law because an unincorporated town isn’t a township, which only applies to justice court boundaries. Amargosa Valley lies in the Beatty justice court township.
Kunzi said Article 5, Section 8 of the Nevada Constitution states: “when any office shall, from any cause, become vacant and no mode is provided by the Constitution and laws for filling such vacancy, the governor shall have the power to fill such vacancy by granting a commission which shall expire at the next election and qualification of the person elected to such office.”
Kunzi said he discussed the appointments with the governor’s office last year, after Carolene Endersby resigned from the Pahrump Town Board in March. Gov. Brian Sandoval didn’t name her replacement until December.
“We concluded this constitutional provision vests the authority to fill these vacancies with the governor, because there is no law providing for the appointment to fill a vacancy in an office of an unincorporated town,” Kunzi wrote in an email.
Bosta argued the Amargosa Valley town board appointment was a township appointment that county commissioners should make.
“I ran for that office in Amargosa Valley and I have been certified by the clerk as a township, non-partisan officer,” he said.
The governor only has the ability to appoint vacancies to state office and then only when the state Legislature isn’t in session, Bosta said.
Kunzi replied, “The governor has been making these appointments that I’m aware of for over 25 years. My feeling is it’s inappropriate to come up with a different interpretation of something that’s been done for 25 years because that’s what Mr. Bosta wants to do. My position is let the governor evaluate it if the governor wants to do it different.”
Merlino said she has to notify the governor by law if there is a vacancy in any elected office.
County commissioners Lorinda Wichman and Dan Schinhofen sided with the DA, who they said is supposed to protect the commission. Commissioner Frank Carbone, who requested the agenda item, said he’d like to get to the bottom of it and talk to state officials, if necessary.
That may have led Kunzi to moderate his position.
“This is the way it’s been done. Because of the absolute confusion, as to how the state has flip-flopped in how they talk about towns and townships, because of that confusion it needs to be clarified. I would love to work with the governor’s office to see if there’s some way of legislatively fixing this. This is not an uncommon problem,” Kunzi said.
Kunzi said there’s three vacancies on town boards throughout the county that need to be filled. A county commission appointment might mean speedier filling of vacancies than the governor’s appointment, like after the Endersby resignation.
It could also eliminate confusion, like when Bill Dolan walked into a Pahrump Town Board meeting in 2008 and announced he was appointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons to a vacancy on the board none of the town board members were aware of.
Ironically, Bosta was part of a group that requested Amargosa Valley have an elected town board, not an advisory board, for more autonomy from Nye County after a dispute over the volunteer fire department. He took his seat after the first official election to the Amargosa Valley Town Board last November.
Meanwhile, Cox complained commission Chairman Butch Borasky appointed himself to a number of committees, but she will get to serve on only three. Borasky assigned Cox to be the county’s liaison with the Amargosa Valley Conservancy Coordination Group; she will also serve on the Tri-County Working Group and Tri-Party Formal Interaction Agreement Working Group, committees primarily dealing with northern Nye County issues.
Cox was named as the second commissioner to the tri-county groups behind Wichman, which usually indicates she is an alternate, but it isn’t listed on the committee appointments as such.
Borasky renewed his appointments to a number of boards like the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission, the Tri-Party Working Group for southern Nye County, the Capital Improvements Advisory Board, the Southern Nevada Workforce Investment Board, Quad State Local Government Authority, Nevada National Security Site board, Nye County Water District board and United Way.
He lists himself as the second choice as nuclear waste liaison, Nevada Association of Counties liaison and Central Nevada Regional Water Authority board member.
Borasky asked commissioners to send him emails on their committee requests over the last two weeks, Cox said she preferred to do that in a public meeting to avoid any appearance of violating the Open Meeting Law.
“You had two weeks to contact me to tell me what you would like. I’ve always had a lot of positions that I’ve always asked for because I want to do my part for the county. I assigned what I thought would be best, with consultation from other commissioners who said they would like to be on something. Normally your first time around you don’t get to pick everything, by the time you get to your second term you would have a little better chance,” Borasky told Cox.
Wichman said commissioners like Borasky and Schinhofen spent years working on individual boards where they are familiar with the issues. She said Cox will need some advice sitting on the tri-party working groups in northern Nye County at first to understand what’s going on.
Borasky said two commissioners are appointed to many boards, with an alternate attending in case the regular liaison can’t attend, because there’s important work being done on some of these boards and Nye County needs to ensure representation.
Former Nye County Commissioner Gary Hollis had been the primary county liaison on nuclear waste, an appointment that took him on frequent trips to Washington D.C. and elsewhere to attend conferences by pro-nuclear organizations. Commissioner Dan Schinhofen, an ardent Yucca Mountain supporter, received that appointment this time.
Wichman said she is in line to be appointed vice-chairman of the Nevada Association of Counties.
Incoming County Commissioner Frank Carbone was named to the Regional Transportation Commission to replace Wichman, he will be the second commissioner for the RPC, Capital Improvements Advisory Committee and water district board.