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Nye County moves forward with new department

Nye County has created a new department which will be dedicated to administering privileged business licenses throughout the county, including those for brothels, liquor and gaming.

While the department is not yet operational, with several additional steps to be taken before it can be utilized, the action has already caused some waves in the local community.

During the September 4 Nye County Commission meeting, certain members of the public accused the county of using the move as an action against brothel owner and political candidate Dennis Hof. Hof has two Nye County businesses, the Love Ranch South and Crystal Watering Hole, which would fall under the new licensing department and he is currently embroiled in several lawsuits against the county. Many of the speakers also called for the two commissioners at the center of the controversy, commissioners Butch Borasky and Dan Schinhofen, to recuse themselves from the item.

Borasky and Schinhofen, however, adamantly denied any retaliatory motive and both participated in the vote, though with different results. The motion to establish a county licensing department met with 3-2 approval, with commissioners John Koenig, Lorinda Wichman and Schinhofen in favor and Donna Cox and Borasky against.

The discussion

Nye County Assistant County Manager Lorina Dellinger started off the item with an overview of the background, explaining that the commission had initially started eyeing a county licensing department a year ago. Dellinger emphasized that the intent was not to create a new county business license but to move the administration of specific types of existing licenses to the county.

She was also quick to point out that the item before the commission that morning was simply to establish the department and would not mean an immediate transfer of duties. Currently, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office is charged with administering privileged business licenses. It will take three other county code amendments to finalize the shift to county management.

Before public comment was opened, commission chairman Koenig took a moment to add, “This has been going on for over a year. It was on the agenda in January… One thing this does is stop all the, ‘I didn’t get my notice,’ ‘I got my notice late.’ Things haven’t been done correctly, things haven’t been paid, paperwork is not correct. This will fix all of that. Everything will be able to be done online.”

Half a dozen members of the public then stepped forward to voice their opinions on the matter, a majority of whom did not support the proposal. Because of the recent order from a federal judge barring Schinhofen and Borasky from voting on items related to Hof’s businesses, there was general agreement among the speakers that the two should not participate that morning.

Resident Dave Caudle questioned the timing of the action as well as the necessity of increased government, criticizing the addition of more layers of regulation and increased cost to taxpayers. Koenig promptly jumped in to assure the audience that the new department would not result in additional county employees.

“We are not going to increase headcount, we already have the person. We are not increasing headcount,” Koenig stated. Further discussion revealed that the county was considering Nye County Administrative Manager Samantha Tackett for the department, although that decision is not yet set in stone.

Dwight Lilly then urged Schinhofen and Borasky to recuse themselves, noting that though he respects the opinion of the county’s legal council, he thought it would be best to avoid trouble.

Debra Strickland, who will take over Schinhofen’s commission seat in 2019, agreed, expressing her belief that averting possible controversy would be prudent. However, Strickland was supportive of the overall idea of creating the licensing department, contingent on the approval of a standard operating procedure manual which would lay down exactly how the department must be run.

Zack Hames, chief executive assistant for Hof, lamented the fact that Hof’s legal team had not been allowed to call in to comment on the item and also threw his support behind recusal or else tabling the item until the new commissioners take their seats in 2019.

When the discussion moved back to the county, Nye County Manager Tim Sutton added that the county’s POOL/PACT legal council advised that Borasky and Schinhofen were not required to recuse themselves from the vote. Koenig also chimed in, asserting that merely establishing the department would not affect a single business. “This does nothing. I could theoretically create that department and then let it sit there forever doing nothing,” he said.

Regardless, Borasky seemed highly irritated by the concept. “Why the hell even bother making a new department?” Borasky demanded. “We don’t enforce what we’ve got, we can’t enforce it because we wind up getting sued. There is no plus side for anybody on this.”

Wichman did not agree. “This is simply to remove inconsistencies between departments,” she said. Wichman also noted that the public hearing for the item had been set prior to the federal order restricting Schinhofen and Borasky from voting on Hof’s businesses. Further, she said the judge had specifically stated the county had the authority to continue its usual duties, which was what the county was trying to do at that moment.

Cox was obviously wary, noting that she found the way the item was worded to be vague. She suggested tabling the item for two weeks, proffering a motion to that effect. Borasky seconded but the motion failed to meet approval. Wichman then followed with a motion to adopt the bill establishing the licensing department, which passed 3-2.

Although many of those making public comment at the meeting predicted another lawsuit on the heels of approval, there is no plan for such action. When reached for comment, Mark Randazza, Hof’s legal representation, stated that at the time, Hof did not intend to file any lawsuit relating to the establishment of the licensing department.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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