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Bulletin board removed amid dispute

County officials and some residents disagree on the use of the courthouse bulletin board, that has been removed by the county sparking a debate on free speech.

An attempt to draw a boundary between public and official use of the board that used to be a fixture of the courthouse resulted in a lively debate at the recent meeting of Nye County commissioners.

"We had a bulletin board in Pahrump that gradually over time has been kind of taken over with private and public advertisements and notices," Nye County Manager Pam Webster said. "And so, I took it down temporarily and what I would like to do is put it back up but limited to official use only. The school district would like to post their agendas there and have administration grant approved official usage of the bulletin boards."

While some noted that the board had been smothered with private notices and advertisements, the lack of a set policy for the use of the board made others question whether prioritizing either party could be the grounds for violation of freedom of speech.

"I just want to make sure we are not stepping on anybody's constitutional rights by telling them they can't post on a bulletin board that's in a public building," Commissioner Donna Cox said. "Can we limit that to strictly certain people like the school board, for instance. Tell the school board they can post, can we therefore tell the general public no, they can not use that board, even though they pay for it?"

According to the administrative rules in Clark County, "unless otherwise authorized by the county manager, signs, posters, or banners are prohibited in county buildings or on county property except legal notices on designated bulletin boards and official notices designating meetings, room assignments, county business and programs and required safety notices.

Resident Andy Alberti, who posted a letter to the community critical of county officials, told the Pahrump Valley Times that the board had been taken down sometime after his posting.

"The purpose of the bulletin board at the court is for public notice," Alberti said in a telephone interview. "Putting a notice about a washing machine or a car is not appropriate."

Alberti reiterated his concerns Tuesday to the Nye County Commission.

Marla Zlotek, chief deputy district attorney, called the concerns "valid constitutional issues" and said she would look into the matter.

"The issues you have brought up are very valid issues and it would be my recommendation to let us explore those issues, First Amendment issues," she said.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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