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County plans new policies regulating bulletin boards, campaign activities

Officials took another step toward implementing Nye County property use policy.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Nye County commissioners proposed several changes to a policy that will provide additional guidelines for county manager Pam Webster in making decisions about county property use, such as campaigning at polling places and using bulletin boards and signs.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen worked on a policy with Assistant District Attorney Tim Sutton and director of administrative services Lorina Dillinger.

“Overall, this is a good policy, it’s a good stewardship of the property,” Schinhofen said.

The county currently doesn’t have a property use policy nor a bulletin board policy. On May 17, Nye County commissioners adopted a Nye County resolution that authorized Webster to make decisions related to county property use in accordance with general constitutional principles.

“It was driven by that (resolution),” Schinhofen said.

Nye County Clerk Sandra “Sam” Merlino said during early voting, the parking places are taken up by the campaign groups at the courthouse and those groups can be aggressive.

“I get complaints about the parking and the aggressiveness. The exit polls are the worst but are allowed by law as long as they follow the law for exit polls,” Merlino said.

Nevada law allows campaigning 100 feet away from the entrance to a polling place.

The policy will incorporate existing Nevada law in regards to campaigning activities on county property and designate specific areas for these activities, officials said.

The proposed guidelines for the use of county buildings by the public for non-county functions said that all event organizers must execute a property use agreement, obtain any required insurance, licenses or permits required for the event, and pay the requisite security deposit of $250.

Additionally, electioneering activities are allowed only at the farthest parking places by the sidewalk of the courthouse, under new guidelines.

Electioneering is campaigning for or against a candidate, ballot question or political party, according to the documents.

“We will be putting together a diagram of the parking places to go along with the policy,” Commissioner Frank Carbone said.

Inside the polling place, no electioneering activities are permitted on primary or general election days.

Under the guidelines, county bulletin boards and signs are allowed only for official county use.

“County bulletin boards and signs are not intended as a forum for the expression of the views or opinions of individuals or groups. This includes materials endorsing or opposing the adoption of federal, state or local legislation or the election of any candidate for public office,” the documents said.

The proposed guidelines further state that notices or messages intended for private benefit, including, but not limited to, for sale signs, yard sale notices, or lost pet announcements can’t be posted on bulletin boards. Materials promoting commercial products or services are also prohibited.

Sutton asked to bring the policy back with corrections.

“I wanted to revise the policy to incorporate those changes and present a clean copy to commissioners,” he said.

Commissioner Donna Cox said she was against the policy.

“I thought that this was going to be for the interior of the county courthouse only, I had no idea that we were going to expand this to the outside and it’s become restrictions instead of guidelines,” she said.

Cox also said there shouldn’t be any charge for use of the county’s property.

“This property was for the public. This is not our property to be putting these kinds of restrictions on, as much as we like to restrict everything,” Cox said.

“Right now, this is going to cause a big issue for anybody that’s running for election next time around. This may cause them not to get re-elected,” she said.

Several members of the public expressed concerns about the policy. Pahrump resident Kenny Bent said that proposed restrictions will alienate the public from the political process.

“As written, it is an attempt to trash the principles of free speech and hijack the current election process,” Bent said. “This proposal establishes a clear disadvantage to grassroots challengers with little or no funding running against established incumbents.”

Commissioner Lorinda Wichman supported the policy. She said her vote is based on what she believes is best for all residents of Nye County.

“I understand there are a few in Pahrump that believe my vote is trampling their First Amendment rights,” Wichman said.

“However, all of those that complain about the lack of parking and of being harassed when trying to enter county facilities have the same rights under this amendment and many other amendments as well.

“According to the DA, certain restrictions are reasonable and acceptable to maintain order and to protect all,” Wichman said.

The revised policy will be on the agenda either at a special meeting on Oct. 12 or the regular meeting on Oct. 18.

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

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