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Commissioners work to appoint Beatty justice to Pahrump court

Nye County has found a way to cover the vacancy left by the by former Pahrump Justice of the Peace Ron Kent, who resigned March 31 due to health reasons.

The county commission on Tuesday approved a resolutions that will allow Beatty Justice of the Peace Gus Sullivan to preside over some Pahrump Justice Court hearings. By a 4-1 vote, the commission approved a resolution that would create a temporary merging of the boundaries for Pahrump and Beatty townships for the justice courts, allowing the appointment of Sullivan to fill out the remainder of Kent’s term, which expires January 2019. He will receive no extra pay, saving the county the cost of nearly $83,000.

The commissioners also approved Sullivan’s appointment by the same 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen told his colleagues that they have every right to adopt the resolution.

“The township boundaries are created by the board and we have the authority to change them,” he said. “We have done this in the past to Tonopah and Beatty and the people up here in Tonopah didn’t panic and did not call us corrupt. For you people who want to call us corrupt, I expect you to get a dictionary and find out what the word corrupt means because there’s no benefit here. We have the authority, they elected us to do our jobs, and so I call for the question.”

The move was not without controversy.

Commissioner Donna Cox, who provided the lone “no” vote, told the board that she felt it would best to allow the voters of Pahrump to decide how the seat should be filled.

Cox noted that she lives in a part of town where people are constantly suggesting the commissioners are corrupt and instances of collusion are occurring, along with other problems.

“I think it would make the citizens feel much better about the commission and the county in general, if we allowed them to have their say on this,” Cox said. “I don’t think any of them mind running for that office and I know it’s going to be a short run, but if Mr. Kent were still in his office, we would be having to pay his wages for the rest of the year anyway.”

Pahrump resident Louis DeCanio, a candidate for the county’s District III commission seat, lobbied to be appointed to the seat since he came in second to Kent in 2012. DeCanio earned 38 percent of the vote compared to Kent’s 61 percent.

He also believes the resolution is permanent.

“Nye County Resolution… clearly states that the boundaries of Pahrump Township are permanent, which means they are never to be changed,” his prepared statement read in part.

DeCanio also noted that the residents of Pahrump should be the ones responsible for filling the position.

“Appointing a permanent non-resident justice of the peace is totally wrong,” he stated. “By doing this, you are negating the voice of the people and showing that the election process in Pahrump is meaningless.”

Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, who made the motion to adopt the resolution, sought clarification from Nye County Clerk Sandra “Sam” Merlino about putting the issue on the ballot.

Merlino said statutes allow for a special election, but that cost would amount to roughly $30,000.

“The filing period would have to be after the June primary,” Merlino said. “We would have to open it up again and follow everything that we normally do for an election. We are still looking at that and we’ll have to figure it out.”

Cox, who is seeking re-election to the District III seat, said she feels the citizens of Pahrump would prefer to bear the cost of a special election, versus not having an election at all.

Sullivan was first appointed to the Beatty Justice Court in 2005 following the death of his father, Bill Sullivan. He was re-elected in 2012 with 62 percent of the vote.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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