By Mark Waite
Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox thinks the county public administrator should collect a regular salary, but that would be up to the state Legislature, which sets salaries for county elected officials.
County commissioners Tuesday approved a revised job description for the public administrator that beefs up reporting requirements.
The bill specifies information that is to be contained in the public administrator’s quarterly report, including a list of all estates being administered, the name of the deceased, date of death, date the file was opened, approximate gross value of the estates, a list of all estates for which property was secured, a list of estates under investigation by the board, as well as money collected and spent by the public administrator.
The public administrator will be required to arrange an annual audit.
District Attorney Brian Kunzi said the bill isn’t related to an investigation of public administrator Falkon Finlinson. The DA’s office had asked the attorney general’s office to take on the investigation last summer, but Kunzi said they didn’t have the time, the county is now handling the probe. That came after Amargosa Valley resident Linda Bromell complained sheriff’s deputies didn’t remove drugs from a deceased relative’s home in a case handled by the public administrator, she said a relative was going to dispose of the drugs.
County public administrators have been plagued by accusations in the past.
“This position needs to be a paid position because in the past we’ve had administrators in there that have done things that were unethical,” Cox said. “This position should be paid so those people are not out there selling stuff they need to be selling in order to meet their budget.”
County Manager Pam Webster said the public administrator’s office charges the estate for the services they provide.
Kunzi thought there were safeguards to ensure honesty. The public administrator can’t just start selling property without a court record, he said.
“The public administrator is not entitled to receive any money from the estate until it is approved by the court. There’s issues with costs the public administrator can charge,” Kunzi said.
County Commissioner Butch Borasky suggested the state Legislature look at Cox’s suggestion. Borasky said he had requested better reporting requirements. Presently only Clark County and Washoe County public administrators are paid salaries.
Bruce Calley, who said he worked on Finlinson’s successful November 2010 campaign, said the process was flawed, as evidenced by previous problems with public administrators.
“The door is wide open for a problem and we’ve had problems in the past with public administrators,” Calley said.
The most infamous scandal was former public administrator Bob “Red” Dyer who was recalled by voters in 2000 after accusations of stealing from estates. Dyer was sentenced to High Desert State Prison in December 2003 for two counts of perjury, one count of attempted bribery, one count of intimidating a witness, theft and possession of stolen property. He was paroled in October 2006 after spending the last four months at the Casa Grande release center.
The last public administrator, Bob Jones, who is also the Nye County facilities manager, quit the position a day after four people robbed his home at gunpoint and emptied his safe of valuables. One suspect, Nicholas Willing, worked under Jones at the Nye County Buildings and Grounds Department.
Kunzi said the bill will alleviate some questions how the public administrator’s office is operating and where the funds are spent. He said cash-strapped rural counties usually fight any attempt to change the law giving the public administrator a salary.
“The problems come when they realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew,” Cox said of the public administrators. “They can justify doing a little double dipping here and there.”