By Mark Waite
A requirement for the PAVED organization to fund coverage by sheriff’s deputies at this year’s annual Pahrump Fair and Festival sets a dangerous precedent, Nye County District Attorney Brian Kunzi told county commissioners Tuesday.
The provision is contained in a new outdoor festival ordinance proposed by Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen last October. PAVED is required to obtain a county permit for the festival for the first time; County Manager Pam Webster admitted they’ve been the guinea pig for the new ordinance.
Paula Glidden, president of the Pahrump Alliance for Valley Economic Development, said it’s incumbent on the provider of an event, like PAVED, to provide security. The fall festival takes place Sept. 27-30 at Petrack Park. PAVED’s application estimates there will be 3,500 people in attendance.
The new outdoor festival ordinance passed last December requires anyone who holds an event with 1,000 or more individuals must obtain a license from the county commission at least 60 days in advance.
The county commission may impose conditions including the minimum number of law enforcement officers at the licensee’s expense or a security plan approved by the sheriff. They may also mandate adequate drinking water, sewage facilities, medical facilities, parking, performance bonds, fire protection, financial statements and a communication system.
Commissioner Joni Eastley inquired if PAVED had $10,000 to pay the sheriff’s fees. Glidden said they already contracted with private security officers for $10,000, an additional $10,000 was earmarked for sheriff’s department security.
“They will be there limited hours but they will be there in their usual location assisting with any problems,” Glidden said.
Eastley said county commissioners should have adopted a fee schedule toward sheriff’s department coverage. She sympathized with Sheriff Tony DeMeo who faces budget constraints this year.
“My concern about this is we’re already paying as part of our taxes for coverage through the sheriff’s office and that includes public events,” Eastley said.
Kunzi added, “I don’t believe the sheriff has the authority to charge somebody for services provided to the public. I’m not even sure the Board of Commissioners had authority to adopt such a structure.”
The county clerk, for example, can’t charge for copies above what is allowed by state law.
“I don’t believe it’s legal to charge somebody for a service provided by a county department,” he said.
Kunzi said off-duty law enforcement officers often provide security for Clark County events. He said that’s what could be meant by the requirement to have a minimum number of law enforcement officers present at the licensee’s expense.
Sheriff Tony DeMeo said the $10,000 fee was a ballpark figure Capt. Bill Becht came up with in the absence of a security plan.
Eastley said commissioners can require hiring off-duty deputies as a condition of approving the event or submitting a security plan to the sheriff.
“It’s a private event, PAVED. We will respond to calls for service,” DeMeo said. “Whatever deputies that are going to be working during that time of the week, that’s what type of coverage they’re going to have.”
DeMeo said insurance companies have wanted to ensure there is a sheriff’s deputy present if liquor is served.
Ten security officers will be working the festival each shift, except after midnight when there will be two, Glidden said.
Kunzi thinks the county is setting a dangerous precedent to require festival organizers to pay for sheriff’s deputies.
“If something happens down there, there’s a shooting or a stabbing or something of that nature and they’re called to go there and respond to that call, it’s not appropriate for the sheriff’s office, it really is the county, to charge for that service,” Kunzi said.
The more clean, legal approach would be to require, as part of the conditions of approving the event, what the sheriff determines for the size of the security, then PAVED can contract with off-duty deputies to provide the service, the DA said.
“Then you’re still going to have the backup from the sheriff’s office to respond to the calls as necessary,” Kunzi said.
DeMeo said he thinks it’d be better if PAVED just contracted with a security firm and left the sheriff’s office out of the equation. But the sheriff added it would be cheaper for PAVED to hire off-duty sheriff’s deputies who wouldn’t have to be paid overtime.
“I’d like to see them hire licensed, trained, deputies rather than security officers who may not have that much training. It would bring an added layer of security that might not be there,” Kunzi said.
PAVED board member Phil Huff said he’d still prefer to see the brown-uniformed sheriff’s deputies on the premises.
“We would insist on having some sheriffs there full-time, whether they were on duty or off duty, or whether we put them on duty at the event. Somebody mentioned the word presence. We feel that a presence of our own sheriffs there are much more important than private security people,” Huff said.
DeMeo said security guards can’t arrest people, but they can detain them until sheriffs deputies arrive, like Walmart uses.
Eastley said with an event as large as the annual Pahrump Fair and Festival it’s necessary to make sure there’s adequate food supplies, drinking water and medical facilities. Glidden said her committee has already spoken with Pahrump Fire Chief Scott Lewis about fire protection.
Time is starting to run short. The festival begins two months from Thursday. Glidden said PAVED has been asking for the county permit since December. It will be discussed again at the first county commissioners’ meeting in August.