Outgoing sheriff critical of communication within county

Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo blasted county officials for a lack of communication during his 12 years in office, as county commissioners delayed approving a vehicle for the Nye County Search and Rescue Service in the southern command, until his successor Sharon Wehrly takes over.

DeMeo was unaware of the county’s decision, made earlier that day at the Dec. 16 County Commission meeting. DeMeo submitted a request for a Dodge Ram 2500 four by four pickup costing $24,950 using proceeds from the half-cent sales tax increase which took effect April 1. The sheriff said search and rescue has been without a four-wheel drive vehicle for rescues that include traveling into the Spring Mountains and Clark County.

“Since search and rescue is still part of the sheriff’s office, by statute and the equipment is a need for them,” DeMeo told commissioners. “That’s why we put this forward. We put this off until we got the sales tax approved.”

When told the sheriff’s office would have to wait two weeks until the new sheriff takes office, DeMeo said “what we are finding out in the 12 years I’ve been sheriff communication doesn’t necessarily happen for a small area.”

He said by comparison, in his former home of Jersey City, New Jersey, a city of 300,000, communication was straightforward and direct.

DeMeo said he had to wait all day during the meeting for his agenda item to come up, as well as a representative of district court who was told a request to modify the department two district court chambers was being postponed until January, to let the two district judges discuss it.

The remodeling would increase the size of the jury room from eight person juries to 12 people, expanding into the old information technology director’s office. It would include a new paint job and flooring, District Judge Robert Lane’s office said that hasn’t been done since the courthouse was constructed in the 1990s. The remodel would be paid for out of the court improvement fund.

“I get very frustrated. The fact of the matter is, we’ve had seminars, we’ve paid people $30,000, $60,000, $80,000 and tell people in Nye County government to have better communication. There’s no e-mails, no talk,” DeMeo said.

“I can’t argue with you,” County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen replied.

“I apologize for no communication. I tried to communicate with you as much as I can,” Commissioner Frank Carbone added.

“This is my last county commission meeting and it still hasn’t changed, 12 years and it isn’t a legacy I would be proud of,” DeMeo said.

The outgoing sheriff has had frequent disagreements with county officials, which peaked in November 2012 when commissioners voted to request the Nevada attorney general’s office prosecute DeMeo for exceeding his budget by over $1 million. The AG’s office declined to prosecute, saying DeMeo didn’t willfully violate the law.

The sheriff did get one request approved, for a Point and Pay system where his office can accept credit and debit card payments. There will be a $400 cost for the Pahrump sheriff’s office, for a computer tablet with a card reader, the Beatty and Tonopah substations already have a computer at the customer service windows. It is a three-year contract. It will allow people to pay fees for concealed weapons permits, fingerprints, brothel cards, work cards, registration of sex offenders and ex-felons.

DeMeo said the 2.5 percent fee for card collections is less than the original 4 percent rate. It’s the same company the county contracted with for payments at the assessor’s and treasurer’s offices.

In his closing remarks under public comment, DeMeo said he wanted to thank the citizens of Nye County for enabling him to serve as sheriff of Nye County for the last 12 years, part of a 14-year career with the sheriff’s department and 41 years in law enforcement. DeMeo said he intended to serve only two terms but citizens of Nye County gave him three.

“This has been a tradition of my family going back 117 years,” DeMeo said. His family were in law enforcement in New York.

The sheriff, who was part of a Christian counseling service for law enforcement personnel in New Jersey, quoted from scripture. He added, “We serve God in the service. I had several meetings with Sharon Wehrly and I’m looking forward in supporting her effort to be sheriff of Nye County. I believe there has to be a flow and it doesn’t serve the community well to have any animosity.”

“I told my troops to serve her as well as they served us. I see a lot of good things for Nye County in the coming years. I know Nye County is going through a tough financial issue but so is everybody else,” the sheriff said. “We all govern in different ways. Governing the sheriff’s department isn’t the same as you govern all of Nye County.”

DeMeo said he prays for the deputies that go out on public service, which includes animal control.

Wehrly plans an official change of command ceremony at 8 a.m. Jan. 5, prior to the start of the county commissioners’ meeting. It will include the ROTC color guard presenting the flag, a small speech by the outgoing sheriff, her own speech and as many former sheriffs as possible to be introduced as guests.

“What we’re trying to do is have a little bit of uniformity and continuity between his regime and mine and it will just be a culmination of the transition process and we’ve never done it in Nye County, although it has been done in other police departments throughout the United States and actually throughout the world. We’d like to do that and give a little thank you to the people who have come before us,” Wehrly told the Pahrump Valley Times.

The incoming sheriff took the oath of office at the commissioners’ meeting Tuesday but won’t officially take office until Jan. 5. Wehrly said she has had several meetings with DeMeo about the transition and they’ve been very proactive.

“He’s been very, very nice,” she said.

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