By Mark Waite
Town board vacancies in Round Mountain, Tonopah and Amargosa Valley are waiting to be filled because the Nevada Secretary of State has decided not to declare those positions vacant, District Attorney Brian Kunzi told county officials Tuesday.
The governor has traditionally appointed members to fill town board vacancies, like the December appointment of Bob Adams to fill the vacant Pahrump Town Board seat left open when Carolene Endersby quit. But that authority was called into question recently.
In Round Mountain, only two members may still be sitting on the town board, County Clerk Sam Merlino said. The board was already one short as not enough people ran for office in November and now Round Mountain Town Board members Joy Hawkins and Sheila Beery-Burrggraff are leaving town.
“Basically they won’t have a board. This is getting to be an emergency situation with the board. This is the issue of who is going to appoint those town board members, but Round Mountain is going to be three members short. They won’t have a functioning board. This is really something that needs to be taken care of,” Merlino told commissioners.
The DA wasn’t overly concerned. “They have a functioning board, they have a board of two. Their quorum is the members that they have,” Kunzi said.
The Amargosa Valley town board is waiting for a replacement for the late Joe DeLee, who died in a traffic accident Nov. 24. Town board member John Bosta claims the county commission has the authority to name the replacements.
“He will not certify it the vacancy to the governor because it’s not a state office,” Bosta said of the secretary of state. “The governor only appoints state offices.”
The county clerk should notify the district attorney of a vacancy and county commissioners should replace them, Bosta said.
The district attorney said previously commissioners couldn’t take that action as there was no legal definition of a township. But Bosta said he was elected as a “non-partisan township officer.”
During a previous discussion, Kunzi quoted article five, section eight of the Nevada Constitution, which states, “when any office shall, from any cause, become vacant and no mode is provided by the Constitution and laws for filling such vacancy, the governor shall have the power to fill such vacancy by granting a commission which shall expire at the next election.”
Tonopah is also short one board member, as not enough people ran for office in that town, Merlino said. The Tonopah town board has been functioning with four members since Jon Zane’s term expired Dec. 31.
Kunzi said he asked for legislation to give the appointment power back to the county commission.
Bosta thinks Assembly Bill 231, introduced by Assemblyman James Oscarson, will clear up the ambiguities.
AB 231 states if a vacancy is declared for a town board position the county commissioners shall appoint a suitable person to serve until the first Monday of January after the next election. The vacant position must be placed on the next election ballot.
Town board terms are for four years.
The bill also changes state law that allowed members of general improvement districts to appoint members to vacancies on their own boards.
Kunzi also wants boards to comply with the Nevada Open Meetings Law in posting agendas. He replied to an inquiry from Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman about the Smoky Valley TV District, which reported it had to reschedule meetings twice because agendas had to be approved by deputy district attorneys.
“They believe their agendas are old business, new business, any other business. We have been trying very hard to get their agendas in compliance with the Open Meetings Law,” Kunzi said.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Donna Cox suggested Pahrump Town Board member Bill Dolan be appointed town board liaison on the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission. The liaison has been vacant since Vicky Parker lost her bid for re-election in November.
“I think this is an issue we need to put to rest. I’m going to ask the board to consider putting this on a future agenda,” Kunzi told commissioners. “You could appoint another town board member if you so chose or you certainly have the option to change the ordinance of what the makeup of the Regional Planning Commission is.”
County Commission Chairman Butch Borasky wants to give the Pahrump Town Board a little more time to appoint a liaison. He wanted an appointment by the May 8 RPC meeting.
Pahrump Town Board Chairman Harley Kulkin wanted the RPC liaison position, which the town board endorsed, but county commissioners rejected his appointment.
The war of words continued.
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen Tuesday responded to Kulkin’s comments before the RPC in which Kulkin again vowed to leave the liaison position vacant and accused commissioners of acting like children. Schinhofen referred to Pahrump Town Manager Bill Kohbarger’s previous comments about how the town and county work well on different committees, in a request for the county to co-sponsor the Pahrump Airport project.
“In light of the fact Mr. Kohbarger said how well the town and county worked together, the comments like the one he made — we were acting like children, we could just appoint him and we would not bring forward anybody else for that position — I think it’s pretty clear who the child is in that situation. I would encourage the town to please send us someone so we can get them on the RPC,” Schinhofen said.