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Judge grills public administrator over estate’s mishandling

Fifth District Judge Kimberly Wanker questioned Public Administrator Falkon Finlinson about $44,000 paid to employees of his department during the handling of the Gary Timmerman estate, during a hearing March 18.

The probate hearing was continued until June 3. Finlinson promised to provide invoices and other material to explain his office’s handling of the estate.

Timmerman died Nov. 22, 2010. Finlinson told the judge he ascertained the value of the estate at $488,684.86.

“And you had expenses on this estate totaling $295,531.43. Is that right?” Wanker asked.

“Yes,” Finlinson replied.

Wanker noted one of the charges included a one-time payment of $15,000 to Deputy Public Administrator Robin Dorand-Rudolf on July 27, 2011, more than the $10,974.91 the public administrator himself requested. Finlinson said Dorand-Rudolf hired some help for a property Timmerman owned on Fox Street, he said there were a lot of smaller charges.

“These weren’t smaller charges in my mind. Why did Robin Dorand get a $15,000 check?” Wanker asked.

“She sent me a bill for that and I’m sure there’s an invoice I can find for you,” Finlinson replied.

Dorand-Rudolf is currently a candidate for public administrator in the 2014 elections. Finlinson isn’t running for a second term.

What was especially troubling to the judge was the public administrator’s handling of Timmerman’s property on Windsong Street.

“The problem is that we paid off the loan on that as part of the estate expenses of $147,012.21 and I think you sold that property for approximately $36,000 or $39,000 because that’s the property you didn’t watch out for and the pipes broke and it became full of mold,” Wanker said.

Despite the loss in the sale, the public administrator’s office still paid for repairs on the property, the judge read off bills that added up to $12,427, including $1,200 for tree trimming and bills of $1,807 and $750 to La Haye Electric.

“I’ll agree that house was a nightmare,” Finlinson said.

“Wouldn’t it have been better to tear it down? You did all these repairs and paid off the mortgage,” Wanker said.

Finlinson said the insurance didn’t cover flood damage. He said the power had to be turned on because the property was vandalized and the air-conditioner had to be fixed. Wanker became more irate when Finlinson said the repairs were paid before the mold problem.

Finlinson said Wanker objected at a previous hearing when they wanted to short sale the house on Windsong but the judge was concerned about saddling the taxpayers with the property.

“It just seems to me, to be totally honest with you, inappropriate. Your expenses are just way out of line,” Wanker said.

No one from the family came to object at the probate hearings, Wanker said, adding “it was properly noticed but this seems ridiculous to me.”

A few expenses were incurred by the previous public administrator, Bob Jones, Finlinson said, but there were no dates on the expenses. Jones was also formerly the Nye County facilities manager, he left office as public administrator in December 2010 just after Finlinson was elected. Robbers had targeted Jones based on information that he was hiding valuables at his home.

Wanker said the public administrator’s office charged the Timmerman estate $3,500 to prepare legal documents, but employees were paralegals, not attorneys.

“I’m not sure what they prepared or why there is that expense because I’ve never seen that done on a probate done by the public administrator’s office before,” she said.

Wanker criticized the use of independent paralegals, saying it isn’t fair for attorneys who pay dues, have malpractice insurance and are regulated.

Finlinson admitted, “on an estate of this size that would’ve been a very good option.”

“That would’ve been imperative. On an estate of this size, a half million dollars, it would’ve been a no-brainer that an attorney would’ve been consulted,” Wanker said.

Finlinson said Timmerman hadn’t paid taxes for 10 years, the judge said he had back taxes totaling $70,114. The public administrator’s office submitted bills for tax preparation as well.

Wanker said the Las Vegas real estate agent on the transactions was the mother of a deputy employed by the public administrator’s office, raising concern of a conflict of interest.

“You cannot tell me there is not one qualified Realtor in Nye County that could’ve handled this?” Wanker asked.

Finlinson said they used different Realtors for the transactions, including one who worked for All-Star Real Estate for the Windsong property, which Dorand-Rudolf introduced him to.

When asked if he carried insurance, Finlinson said he believed he was covered under the county, but didn’t know anything about it.

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