Nye County’s embattled tax assessor blasted county officials Monday with claims of harassment and renewed attempts by them to embarrass her into leaving office.
Shirley Matson stated her case during an unconventional press conference at the headquarters of local Tea Party-affiliated group Concerned Citizens for a Safe Community.
The elected official held the press gathering to respond publicly after the FBI confiscated two of her computers last week when allegations surfaced that she may have tampered or attempted to tamper with a package addressed from the county’s human resources department to the FBI’s Las Vegas field office. The package contained a computer disc with personnel records for a fired sheriff’s deputy under federal investigation for civil rights violations.
Matson took the package in view of her employees, even announcing loudly that it was addressed to the FBI, walked into her office, tacked a sticky note with her name onto the package and then left with it later in the day when she went to lunch, mailing it herself at the local post office some three hours after taking it out of the county outgoing mail bin, multiple sources tell the Pahrump Valley Times.
Matson denied doing anything wrong.
“The current assault on me is malicious harassment, false accusations and retaliatory,” she said of her plight.
Matson opened her press conference with two prepared statements. The first was a letter she intended to send to County Manager Pam Webster. In it, Matson attempted to steer blame for her actions onto the county.
“Carelessness of this nature with sensitive data is unacceptable and the employee responsible for leaving the disc incompletely labeled and unattended in this manner should be disciplined,” Matson’s letter to Webster states. “It might have been damaged or lost. This level of laxity with sensitive information reflects badly on the security consciousness of Nye County and file personnel.”
Parcels from other nearby county offices, including the DA’s office, sheriff’s department, treasurer and recorder’s offices are routinely metered, stamped and left for an 11 a.m. pick-up in the assessor’s office, a practice that has gone on without incident for many years, officials say.
Not anymore. Webster said she received Matson’s letter, but already after Wednesday’s FBI visit, county officials decided to remove the postage meter and outgoing mail bins from the assessor’s office.
“The security of the mail is of course a concern to the county. We will be relocating the printer. Let me put it this way, we are re-evaluating the whole mail setup in Pahrump. The whole mail process,” the county manager said.
After reading her letter to Webster, Matson recounted her version of Wednesday’s events.
She called the confiscation of her computers “theatrics.”
“The public action of taking my computers has the appearance of theatrics to make me look as though I have done something wrong,” she said.
She added that she’s made multiple phone calls to Kunzi, the FBI and Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall to get her computers back, “so I can get back to work.”
After making her prepared statements, Matson agreed to answer some questions, both from the media and from several CCSC members in attendance.
She used the occasion to lob multiple allegations at other county officials, especially District Attorney Brian Kunzi and Webster, as well as make a number of questionable claims about employees in her own office. She provided little evidence, however, to back up any of her claims. In fact, a large portion of the hour-long gathering was solely dedicated to rehashing some of the county’s well-known legal entanglements, a more than year-old police investigation about check fraud involving the assessor’s bank account, various new and old conspiracy theories about local corruption all peppered with loaded questions from Matson’s supporters.
One question Matson did answer clearly was how often she takes possession of metered and stamped U.S. mail that passes through her office that is not addressed to her.
“I do it all the time,” she said.
Asked if she opened or attempted to open the package addressed to the FBI, she said she didn’t. Asked if she alerted anyone outside her office that she was in possession of the package, she said she didn’t.
Asked whether she feared prosecution or had consulted an attorney yet, she said, “No comment.”
Sources tell the Pahrump Valley Times that Matson could face an obstruction of justice charge for taking the parcel. The material on the compact disc was technically not evidence yet since the records were not official county copies. It’s unclear yet what action, if any, the FBI may take in the matter.