By Mark Waite
Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo’s attorney, Adam Levine, elaborated on a previous statement his client was informed his budget was in the black 39 days before the end of the fiscal year.
County commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to refer the sheriff for prosecution by the Nevada Attorney General’s office for exceeding his budget by $1.03 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
In a press release, Levine said the sheriff’s office was informed May 22 it had a surplus in excess of $800,000.
Nye County Comptroller Susan Paprocki said she couldn’t comment on that claim; County Manager Pam Webster and DeMeo were both unavailable for comment.
“That information may have been erroneous. While we do not yet have the audited financial information, it preliminarily appears that county finance may have budgeted for furloughs for some officers without first reaching an agreement with the appropriate bargaining unit and also for other critical positions, which Sheriff DeMeo was informed were exempted from furloughs,” Levine said.
Levine said Commissioner Butch Borasky, to his credit, expressed doubts on the vote.
“The office of the sheriff is confident that if this matter is reviewed by the office of the attorney general, there will be no willful violations found.”
In a memo to Nye County sheriff’s deputies, DeMeo wrote the outcome rests in a different office after they do an investigation. He urged them not to let politics affect their job.
“I have believed in the system we have since I took my first oath of office for this profession in 1973. It is the system I believe in and the system we work in. Whatever your beliefs are on this action by the BOCC, you have a job to do on behalf of the people who depend on us and I have an office to administrate on their behalf,” DeMeo wrote.
“I regret any negativity that this may reflect on you or this office, you are professionals,” he said.
Borasky said Thursday he had two reservations about voting to send the case for prosecution, one was problems the county was having adapting to a new computer system, the EDEN system, another was the fact he received last minute backup.
“I really didn’t have sufficient time to read every line. That one kind of made me just a little bit hesitant,” Borasky said. But he added, “I do believe it was the right thing to do. I did support my colleagues; I just had to make that statement because I was unsure about a couple things.”
Commissioner Gary Hollis said he asked Chairman Lorinda Wichman to go into executive session earlier in the meeting. Hollis missed the vote, he said he had turned down the Boy Scouts before and didn’t want to do it again.
“They were really enthused about getting their badges and an elected official had to go and talk to them about the Constitution. I told her I would appreciate her moving this up so I could be there,” Hollis said.
Hollis wouldn’t say how he would’ve voted.
“I didn’t hear all the evidence, I didn’t hear what Sheriff DeMeo said or anything,” Hollis said. But he added, “we have to live within our means.”
Nevada Deputy Attorney General Keith Munro said his office is aware of the case and has followed it in the newspaper.
“We expect to receive something in the mail the next day or two,” Munro said. “We’ll handle this case the way we handle any case. We’ll look at it and review it.”
Sometimes the attorney general’s office looks at a case and doesn’t feel there should be anything done, sometimes they do, Munro said.
“We’ll look to see if there’s any necessary investigation, then after the investigation we decide if there’s any crimes that should be charged,” he said.
A violation of NRS 354.626 is a misdemeanor, but an official who is found guilty of willfully violating that law ceases to hold office.
Nye County District Attorney Brian Kunzi was formerly an attorney with the AG’s office before he won election in November 2010, he specialized in insurance fraud and workmen’s compensation fraud cases.
Since Paprocki, a former fiscal analyst, was promoted to Nye County comptroller on Feb. 20, the county commission has been receiving regular reports on finances. Before that, County Treasurer Mike Maher was threatened with prosecution for not producing his monthly reports in a timely fashion that showed the balances in county funds.
At an April 3 meeting, Paprocki warned commissioners of a 5 percent drop in revenue, a $2.7 million deficit for the coming fiscal year. She proposed eliminating a STEP increase, a mandatory monthly furlough day, cutting sheriff’s overtime in half, not filling vacant positions and cutting services not mandated by state law.
At that meeting, Commissioner Joni Eastley remarked, “I don’t know how you ever totally discontinue overtime, particularly when 42 percent of your budget is public safety. They don’t get to schedule when there are emergencies.”
County commissioners promised the Nevada Department of Taxation they would exercise financial constraints in a corrective letter approved after the annual 2010-11 fiscal year audit was delivered. Accountant Dan McArthur has pointed out violations of the law in overspending by departments every year in his audit report.