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Matson confirms firing attempt with online comments

Nye County Assessor Shirley Matson wouldn’t comment for a newspaper article earlier this week on her attempts to fire her property appraiser and opponent in the Nov. 4 general election, Sheree Stringer, but she spilled the beans in posting online comments on the story on the Pahrump Valley Times’ website.

Sources told the Pahrump Valley Times Stringer installed a surveillance camera at her office after she suspected someone was going through her desk when the assessor’s office was closed. Matson called the sheriff’s department to investigate. Det. Joe McGill concluded no laws were broken. McGill’s wife, Tammy McGill, a part-time employee, was then fired by the assessor for no apparent reason.

Matson confirmed the details with her comments online.

“Sheree Stringer has engendered a hostile work environment in the assessor’s office by demonstrating her distrust of co-workers via the surreptitious placement of a ‘spy camera’ actively taking pictures of individuals entering her work area; it has no door. Fellow employees at the assessor’s office are not restricted from this work space and may enter this area at will,” Matson wrote.

“There is no legitimate reason to collect data in the form of pictures of co-workers entering her work space. The assessor deals with data available to the general public. This action is not only in violation of Nye County policy but is a class D felony. The sheriff’s office removed the device and placed it in evidence. I am obligated to press charges,” she wrote.

“This behavior warrants termination from the assessor’s office. Creating a workplace atmosphere of cooperation and interpersonal support in a common effort is incompatible with clandestine behavior such as this. The damage done to the smooth functioning of the assessor’s office cannot be overcome if Mrs. Stringer remains in her current position in the wake of this incident. Hence I am noticing my intent to terminate Mrs. Stringer,” Matson wrote.

But Stringer was placed on paid administrative leave, per county policy.

Matson said there are several other incidents involved in the intention to terminate Stringer.

“I do believe it is Mrs. Stringer that is paranoid and unstable. I ask the other employees in the office if they thought their desks were rifled through and they told me no. They also told me they don’t have anything of value in their desks. If the paranoid Mrs. Stringer was so concerned about items in her desk a rational person would take them home while out on leave,” Matson wrote.

Sam Musselman, husband of former county assessor Sandra Musselman, commented, “there are some hilarious village idiots out today. In my opinion it seems Sheree was trying to protect herself from a mentally unstable employer. This is why there is a need for the employee association in order to protect their livelihood from wrongful termination. Sheree has worked for the assessor’s office for 10 years without any problems and then all of a sudden she loses her livelihood because her boss has lost her mind completely.”

Matson goes on to say, “Sheree Stringer has a high absenteeism rate at work and she was gone again for the last three weeks. When she is gone, her calls come to me, the assessor, her supervisor. That sometime requires me to go get files out of her work area and that was when I discovered the spy camera, recorder and video device. There were no markings on it I had to go to the Internet to find out what it was.”

Matson was found guilty of two ethics counts in April 2012 and fined $5,000 by the Nevada Commission on Ethics for failing to avoid conflicts between her private interests and the public interest, using her position to intimidate and harass other officials, and using government time, property and equipment to benefit her personal interest. Ironically, one ethics charge was for asking Stringer to request a personal property declaration from Stephanie Lopez, a day after Lopez led a protest against Matson.

Last October, the FBI seized two county-owned computers from the assessor’s office after allegations Matson opened a letter from the human resources department that held a computer disc containing employee records for a sheriff’s deputy under federal investigation.

In referring to District Attorney Brian Kunzi, Matson wrote online, “I have volumes of email rants from Kunzi, talk about a crazed maniac. Since it is common knowledge that Kunzi has, does and will target me his decision will naturally not be fair and a conflict of interest especially since it appears he has a rather close relationship with Sheree Stringer. I am guessing he won’t be the decision maker. He needs to apply himself to the stack of files on his desk.”

Finally, Matson said she has a very tight budget and has been struggling to keep two temporary employees.

“I have been stealing from Peter to pay Paul, one should have gone end of June,” Matson wrote. In an apparent reference to fired part-time employee, McGill, she wrote, “After I was aware that they were married and an obvious conflict I knew what had to be done. I had already decided of the (two) who I wanted to keep and it was not Tammy.”

A blogger named Wayne simply said, “for Shirley Matson to engage herself in this discussion and go on to make disparaging comments about employees in this venue is so unprofessional. The community is already well aware of her ridiculousness, her ranting here simply solidifies that fact that she lacks class, professionalism, integrity, work ethic and brains. Quite frankly I feel sorry for her, her behavior is pitiful.”

Matson’s public railing against private county employees may backfire on the assessor, who could now face a new round of ethics complaints as a result, not to mention legal problems for the county, which could be sued now that a department head has seen fit to make a private employee matter very much public before it is resolved through the appropriate channels.

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