By Selwyn Harris
Avoiding citizen’s arrests, suing the county commissioners, fighting firefighters and keeping a theme park dream on life support can be expensive.
Witness #1: The Town of Pahrump’s Invoice Accounting Report released earlier this month shows that the town has paid more than $55,000 in legal fees over the past two months alone.
Called about the hefty price tag, Town Manager Bill Kohbarger refused to answer specific questions, saying the charges were merely the cost of doing business.
Town board Chair Vicky Parker wasn’t much help either — surprisingly, she hadn’t seen the Nov. 9 invoice yet.
Actually, Finance Director Michael Sullivan seemed to be the only town official willing to talk to the Pahrump Valley Times about the legal fees.
He said the calendar and how the billing process works explains why they look exceptionally high for the billing cycle.
“That’s two months worth of billing and part of that is how the law firm does their statements and how we do our accounts payable. We have to wait two weeks to get that and don’t forget that we just had a five-Tuesday October, so you end up kind of stretching the game a little bit.
“We had one statement for September and then we got the October statement. In order to kind of catch up, so we are not behind on paying the bill, we got it in that batch. That’s a two-month billing cycle,” he said.
The report shows that the town was forced to rely on its attorney, Bret Meich and the Reno firm Armstrong Teasdale, more than a dozen times since September.
Some of those issues pertain to defending against actions from local entities, including from the Nye County Republican Central Committee NCRCC as well as the International Association of Fire Fighters IAFF Local 4068, which fought the town tooth and nail on labor negotiations not long ago.
Parker noted that grievances filed within the fire department also cost the town money.
Attorney fees for those matters amounted to more than $15,000 in legal expenses.
“The union has just filed grievance after grievance after grievance. They are not really winning them but it’s costing us lots of money,” Parker said.
In reference to the NCRCC, the town paid more than $17,000 since July. The NCRCC made headlines this summer when some of its members attempted to perform citizen’s arrests on town board members. Later, town officials were forced to defend themselves in court against the NCRCC after the organization filed a complaint regarding PTO 46, a town ordinance pertaining to the incorporation of Pahrump.
Judge Robert Lane eventually threw out the complaint.
Election issues were another front where the town was forced to call for legal advice.
Ballot question #2 was initiated by the Nye County Board of Commissioners this summer to allow voters the decision to dissolve the town board and create an advisory board.
Town board members maintain that the commissioners did not have legal authority to place the question on the ballot, thus attorney services were required once again to the tune of $15,462.04 so far.
Though the question passed by a very narrow margin of 231 votes, the issue remains in litigation.
At present, it costs $10,000 a month to retain the services of the town attorney — and that’s for routine town legal services only.
Sullivan noted that the billing process is initiated by how many hours the attorney puts in on a particular matter.
The finance director also said the $55,000 figure is not an exceptionally high figure compared with previous cycles.
“It’s like going to the doctor, it’s never going to be cheap regardless,” he said.
Sullivan said a lot of the attorneys’ work is done over the telephone and that is when the proverbial “meter” starts.
Attorney’s fees aside, there are also other “big ticket” items on the town’s most recent accounting report.
Fuel for Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services cost $13,427; ongoing projects at Petrack Park, and the Fairgrounds cost $27,288.00, and $47,115.85 respectively.