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State opinion sought on court townships merger

A plan to dissolve recently merged justice court townships in 2019 raised the question if an election could be held prior to the sunset date.

Nye County commissioners in May adopted a resolution to temporarily merge the justice court townships of Pahrump and Beatty following the resignation of Pahrump Justice of the Peace Ron Kent on March 31. The move enabled Beatty Justice Gus Sullivan to cover the caseload in Pahrump through the end of Kent’s term in January 2019. Under the resolution, the consolidated Pahrump and Beatty Township shall again become separate in 2019.

However, Nye County District Attorney Angela Bello questioned if the court townships would need to be separated a year prior so elections could be held for Kent’s old seat.

“I think the safest bet is either to put it in January 2018 and appoint for that one year or get an attorney general’s opinion that might say you don’t have to,” Bello said at the county commission meeting on Tuesday.

After the resolution was signed, John Bosta, who is a town board member in Amargosa Valley, raised questions about the sunset date.

Bello said she had done legal research and found some cases that are old and that are not from Nevada “but they would clearly indicate that you cannot put something on the ballot for office and have someone elected to an office for a township that doesn’t exist yet.”

Bello said Pahrump Justice Kent Jasperson had told her that he disagrees with her analysis. Instead, he suggested consulting Nevada’s attorney general to make sure that they can dissolve the merged Pahrump and Beatty township after the election of the justice of the peace, or if they will need to prior to an election.

“So, I told him I would be willing to look at it,” Bello said.

Some criticized the approved resolution and called for appointing an individual to fill the resulting vacancy or organizing a special election. Sullivan, who has served in Beatty since 2005, is receiving no extra pay, saving the county the cost of nearly $83,000. The commissioners approved the temporary merger and Sullivan’s appointment by two separate 4-1 votes in May.

Commissioner Donna Cox, who voted against the merger in May said she still stood by her original decision.

“I do think this should go to election or an appointment immediately, but there was a question with a budget, that’s why everybody went the other direction, because we’ve had such tough times with the money situation,” she said.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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