By Selwyn Harris
The term ethics is defined as a “system of moral principles.” This month more than two dozen newly elected or appointed officials spent several hours in a special workshop learning about ethical standards.
The workshop, which was open to the general public, was designed mainly for newly elected county and town officials and covered scores of topics, from roles and responsibilities, decision making, and voting by public officers.
Wayne Carlson is the executive director of the Nevada Public Agency Insurance Pool.
He noted that the workshop is a very helpful tool for individuals making the transition from private citizen to public leader.
“I’m trying to orient them on how to govern in their new role. A lot of times the power is different. They have a collective power instead in an individual power. That creates differences, plus you are making decisions where there is a lot of different points of view and different alternatives and conflicts about those things,” he said.
New Pahrump Town Board member Amy Riches attended the training session.
With no prior political experience, she said the workshop was extremely helpful in understanding the role of town officials.
“There is so much to absorb and I am enjoying it. I’m taking tons of notes,” she said.
Riches pointed out that she is working hard on making the switch from private citizen to public official.
“I want to represent the people and I have to get over this attitude that I have that the board is the enemy. I’m working on that because I want the people to get a fair shake and I don’t believe they had one in the past,” she said.
Riches also spoke about her very first night as a sitting town board member on Tuesday.
“I thought it was real good and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was very nervous, but I felt good about it,” she said.
Bill Dolan is no stranger to local politics.
He was also elected in November to serve on the board after being defeated following the last election cycle.
Dolan described the importance of the workshop, especially for individuals who are essentially neophytes in the public arena.
“I’m glad it was very well attended by everybody. There was an obvious absence of certain individuals that could have benefited from the training, but other than that, I think it went very well. Wayne Carlson always does a fantastic job,” he noted.
Even though Dolan has years of experience as a public official, he made the point that even he learned a few new things following the session.
“There was a couple of things on items that need to be on agendas that I was not aware of and I actually had been working on a presentation to the board to make some changes to our agenda. I was very pleased that Wayne Carlson brought those up and I will be presenting that to our chairman in the next couple of days,” he said.
Dr. Tom Waters is in his midterm as a town board member. He said he also noticed a few no-shows, including new county commissioner Donna Cox.
“I did a count on the new elected officials and all of them were there except one. It kind of surprised me because I know in talking to the people who were elected to the commission as well as the town board, I know the ones who really need to try and understand what the law is all about. I was also very glad to see Amy Riches there and she is working very hard to try and get up to speed. It’s not going to happen in one day but I think she will get there. I did notice there was one newly elected commissioner missing. Not to be in there and listen to what the open meeting law and the ethics is all about, I felt that it was just the wrong way to go,” Waters said.
Pat Burnley has served for many years on the board of the Pahrump Community Library.
As chair, she said she wanted to learn more about ethics as it relates to public officials.
She noted that town board meetings today are slightly different than the ones in the past.
“I used to go the town board meetings and they would have fights, yelling, screaming, and hollering. We always had about a half dozen police officers at the town board meeting because you never knew what was going to happen. It was like a free-for-all but as the years have gone by, people have calmed down. We still have few that get a little antsy at times but a majority of the time, it is very calm, very collected and everybody knows what they’re doing and they do what they are supposed to do,” she said.
Carlson, meanwhile, said though the workshops are normally held following elections, he does travel on a regular basis to provide his services to municipalities around the Silver State.
“I do this a lot more during election cycles, but I do it as often as we can. I travel quite a bit,” he said.