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Nye County digs into brothel financial figures

The Nye County Commission received a presentation at its last meeting regarding the financial figures relating to brothel operations, including the revenue directly created and the expenses associated with battling lawsuits arising from the industry.

However, commissioner Butch Borasky apparently felt that the numbers presented were not entirely representative of the situation and he asked for a more in-depth look at the monetary effect brothels have on the county.

The presentation given at the commission’s Tuesday, May 22 special meeting came at the request of Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman. She explained that the purpose of the review was to determine whether county taxpayers were essentially subsidizing the brothel industry, which she noted was not the case, according to the data presented.

Overview of the figures

Currently, there are two pending lawsuits against the county, both filed by brothel owner Dennis Hof. One is filed against Nye County and various county officials, including Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen and Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly, which accuses the county of violating Hof’s First Amendment right over a sign in Crystal.

The other is against Borasky for comments the commissioner made from the dais concerning Borasky’s fear for his life, which Hof claimed constituted defamation. The defense of those suits, run through the county’s insurance policy, could come to $50,000 each due to the deductible, Wichman explained.

Nye County Manager Tim Sutton noted that while that was accurate, the county had not yet spent the entire amount on either case. “We have not reached that deductible yet because the lawsuits are still in their early stages,” Sutton said, informing the board that thus far only $15,000 had been expended. However, he detailed that the bills from the lawsuits would continue to rise until the county hit the $50,000 threshold on each case.

Nonetheless, Wichman seemed pleased by the figures. “Even if we assumed, worst case scenario with the two lawsuits… and let’s just say we doubled the whole thing, we are still doing well. They (the brothel businesses) are covering their own expenses and the taxpayers are not subsidizing the brothels at this point,” Wichman stated.

According to information submitted on the agenda item, the brothels in Nye County brought in a total of $200,139.23 in 2016 and $192,188.28 in 2017 through license fees, worker card fees and property taxes.

In 2016 the county only paid out $2,298.83 in staff time to deal with the industry and zero on lawsuits but those numbers jumped quite a bit in 2017, when the county paid out $13,877.28 in staff time and $15,014.04 for lawsuits. Staff time, it was noted, included sheriff’s office personnel but not code compliance staff members.

Borasky was not shy about expressing his doubts about the presentation. “Tim (Sutton), I’d like to sit down with you and see an analysis of this. I don’t believe you hit everything and every person and I would like to see a complete breakdown… The numbers to me are very low,” Borasky declared.

Other points raised

Schinhofen also took the time to add his take on the situation, interjecting that upon reviewing the license fees, he felt that the county was getting “shortchanged” in comparison to the license fees charged by Lyon County. Specifically, Schinhofen honed in on the county’s attempt in mid-2017 to raise the brothel license fees to a flat fee of $36,000 per year, which an outraged Hof staunchly opposed. The county ultimately voted to adjust the existing tiered rate system to account for a 25 percent increase instead.

“If Lyon County can get $79,000 per license, I don’t know why we couldn’t get at least $36,000,” Schinhofen said. He also remarked that marijuana brings in much more than the brothels, with the dispensary alone creating more revenue than all the brothels located in the county. Finally, he said he was glad that residents could see for themselves how much revenue the brothels bring the county, which was nowhere near the million dollars that some community members were claiming.

Commissioner Donna Cox did not let Schinhofen’s comments go unchallenged. She came out in strong defense of the brothels, saying though the businesses may not directly contribute a million dollars to the community, the indirect impacts were substantial and should also be considered.

“I believe the million dollars that was being spoke about was the side-effects of the brothel business, bringing in people who gamble and drink and pay money for their food when they go to restaurants… And… including hiring other people that do those jobs,” Cox asserted. She listed security guards, bartenders, cooks, maintenance workers and others, stating, “It’s not directly but it is indirectly related to the brothel businesses and all those people would be out of work if something happened and they no longer had a job.”

Brothel petition

The financial impact of the brothel industry has become a hot-button issue in recent weeks due to the petition filed by Citizens Against Brothels In Nye County, which is seeking to have a ballot question placed with the aim of eliminating the local brothel industry. Many of those who are against the action have cited the negative impact of losing the money generated by those businesses as well as the number of people who would end up unemployed if the brothels were closed.

Those in favor of the move, however, argue that there are plenty of available jobs for those displaced workers to switch to and highlight the fact that the revenue created directly by the brothels constitutes only a small fraction of the county’s overall budget.

In the end, Nye County residents will have the final say in this struggle. If the petitioners are unable to gather the required number of signatures to validate their ballot measure, the issue will die there. If the citizens’ group is successful, voters will be given the chance to express their opinions in the ballot box, either by voting “Yes” to keep the brothels or “No” to get rid of them.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com.

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