Dissension is creeping into the ranks of the Pahrump Town Board.
First term board member Amy Riches and Chairman Harley Kulkin may sit next to each other on the dais, but they are miles apart when it comes to their respective ideals on town business.
After six months on the board, Riches said she doesn’t always feel that she fits into the scheme of things, especially during town board meetings.
“I feel like I do the best job I can for the people. They don’t allow me to say that I do the will of the people because they told me that they all are up there doing the will of the people, so I don’t say that anymore. The fact is that I do the will of the people,” she said
Riches also mentioned an instance where she had to briefly excuse herself from a recent meeting when she felt excluded from the discussion.
“That’s why I got so upset because Dr. Tom Waters started out saying I wanted to discuss taxes for a minute. Harley had his turn and he was talking about taxes, but the moment that I started talking about it, Bill Kohbarger cut me off. He said that it wasn’t on the agenda and I couldn’t discuss it. I couldn’t understand why they could and I couldn’t. I got upset because that day I found out that I was being investigated by the attorney general’s office, so that kind of all added up to it,” she said.
Kulkin said on Wednesday that six months after being sworn in, Riches is having a hard time making the transition from private citizen to elected official.
“I know she had some personal issues and I have spoken to her and told her that it’s not an issue of whether her issues are valid or not, the point is she has responsibilities and they are not getting done. She doesn’t do a majority of things that are required for the position as a town board member,” he said.
Kulkin went on to say that Riches was late in filing a performance evaluation on Town Manager Bill Kohbarger recently.
“It was due at the end of last month and all of the board members had a copy and had about two months to do it. Our staff gave us the form two months ago. We have all tried to work with her and it’s a little frustrating especially when she misses meetings,” he said.
Kulkin noted that Riches knew what she was getting into when she decided to run for office and she needs to carry out the responsibilities that local residents elected her for.
“When you look at the big picture, a person needs to realize that when they run for office, there’s a lot of work that goes with the position for which you are running. It’s just not a matter of showing up and then forgetting about it till the next one because there’s a lot of work to do between meetings. To do a competent job, you need to have a good relationship with staff by talking to them and seeing what’s going on, researching items on the agenda so you are prepared when you come to a meeting. A person shouldn’t be asking questions from staff at the meeting. They should have a pretty good handle on what the agenda items are. Sometimes we ask questions that we already know the answer but we want the public to get the answer as well,” he said.
Board members are also required to attend advisory board meetings in the capacity of a liaison where they report their findings to the town board.
Riches said due to an illness in her family she could not attend several recent advisory board meetings and caught flak from Kulkin for her absence.
“I said right now I can’t do two advisory board meetings, my mother has to come first. I can only do the nuclear advisory board and not the other one. He told me that was not doing a good job and that if I were not an elected official, I would have been fired. I’m so sick of this. I think I’m making a terrific transition because I’m serving at the will of the people,” she said.
Riches said her mother has suffered from severe health problems as of late and that she had two strokes in the last four months.
Kulkin confirmed that he indeed spoke to Riches and used the example of a private company to make his point.
“I told her that if she had been hired by a company, she would have indeed been fired by now. I’m sure the other board members have tried to work with her, too, and I think that for the most part they have pretty much thrown their hands up in the air frustrated,” he said.
Kulkin said he was willing to speak publicly about the matter because nothing has changed since day one.
“I’m like the rest of everybody else because we have all tried and we’re exasperated. I thought it was time that I go public with it. She really needs to make a decision. Does she have the time for this job or not? I’m the chairman so it kind of all falls upon me to say something to try and get this resolved. The bottom line is there is nothing that can be done when an elected official is performing this way. If it involved ethics laws, then that can be dealt with, but that’s not the case here,” he said.
Waters, meanwhile, said he also took notice of Riches’ absence at recent advisory board meetings.
He also mentioned how board members play a big role during those meetings.
“Advisory boards need their liaison to work with the town office, staff, and board to make sure that they get the advice and leadership they need and that’s what the town board members are for. If the advisory board has questions they can ask the liaison. We have said over and over if you can’t attend advisory board meetings, then you just contact another town board member who will cover the meeting for you. I told Amy that I would be glad to cover her advisory board meetings. To have no liaison at the advisory board meeting is totally unacceptable because we have a stake in the advisory board being successful,” he said.