As the Pahrump Town Board continues counting the days until their respective terms expire permanently early next year, members are now concerned about an apparent leadership void.
In August, the Fifth Judicial District Court handed down an injunction barring the town from entering into any employment contracts beyond the dissolution of the board on December 31st.
The action now has a few board members wondering who will maintain stewardship of the town between New Year’s Eve and January 5, when county staff and commissioners return to work from their holiday break.
On Tuesday, board member discussed approving an extension of the town manager’s contract to January 4, 2015, at which time the at-will employment of Holecheck will be determined by county commissioners.
What surprised some, however, is the fact that Town Board member Amy Riches, a close ally to Holecheck, was the sole nay vote.
When Holecheck was hired last summer, Riches has been a constant vocal supporter of the town manager.
With the end of the town board now weeks away, Riches appears to have switched her allegiance.
Her demeanor throughout the entire meeting appeared to be a bit “spirited.”
Riches noted that four local residents convinced her to vote against the item.
“I think Susan has done a fantastic job, but I got a lot of feedback from people saying with our staff, we should be able to handle everything and they didn’t want their tax dollars spent on this,” Riches said. “I’m going to do what the people tell me to do.”
Holecheck, meanwhile, directly addressed the concerns raised by Riches.
“I realize Mrs. Riches that there are four people that think that the town staff can run for three or four days and they probably could because we have a great staff, but you still need someone in place for management. That’s why you have town managers and that’s just my opinion.”
Vice Chair Bill Dolan had to remind Riches that a yes vote will not cost the town additional money by extending the contract a mere four days.
“Ms. Holecheck is salaried. She’s not hourly. If everybody remembers several years ago, we had that massive rainstorm come through here over the holidays and we needed a town manager at that time. She’s salary, not hourly and we don’t pay her holiday.”
Board Chair Harley Kulkin suggested tweaking the wording in the contract to avoid any problems with the county.
“I’d like to see the expiration date removed. The phrasing should be the expiration date will be determined by the governing body at the time,” he said. “It allows the county commissioners, at their will, to terminate it as soon as they take over or let it go as long as they want, so we’re not violating the court order.”
Town attorney Bret Meich entered the discussion suggesting the August court order prohibits the board from entering into a contract beyond the board’s dissolution date.
“I believe that extending the town manager’s contract beyond the dissolution of the town board would violate the injunction,” Meich said. “I’ve suggested as a possibility, an at-will employment agreement continuing employment wherein the county would have the discretion to terminate the town manager’s employment at-will, but that’s not necessarily what’s reflected here.”
“I don’t think it makes a difference either way,” Holecheck responded, “You’re not changing my contract, you’re just changing the date from December 31st to January 4. If at that point in time, the county wants to say c’est la vie or sayonara, that’s the way it is. I don’t think we should impose any obligation on the county as far as my employment.”
Local resident Debra Strickland had strong feelings about the town not having anyone at the controls for nearly a week come January.
“It would make absolutely no sense if you don’t extend the contract,” Strickland said. “She’s doing a great job and you cannot have people working for the town without a town manager to oversee them. That’s just stupid.”
Kulkin too reminded the room that a town manager’s duties does not begin at 9 a.m., and end at 5 p.m.
“At any given time, 24/7, the town manager might be called about an issue. It could be a fire engine that broke down, or any number of things, so she has to respond 24/7.”
Following further discussion board members voted to pass the item 4-1.