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Wasting time and taxpayers dollars on a bulletin board

Once in awhile an item appears on the agenda for County Commission that has me shake my head, maybe even bang it on my desk in complete disbelief.

“Are we still doing this,” is often my thought.

Thursday morning around 9 a.m., that flush sensation ran over me again.

“Item 30: For Possible Action – Discussion and deliberation regarding a policy for posting documents on bulletin boards located in County buildings.”

Sometimes, I guess, you need to put an official policy in place for something that should be obvious.

As a refresher, back in November the Nye County Commission discussed the issue of bulletin boards in county buildings by the public. A bulletin board in the courthouse on Basin Avenue was removed by the county because it had become, according to County Manager Pam Webster, “taken over with private and public advertisement and notices.”

Seems a reasonable stance to me. Bulletin boards in other municipalities I’ve covered are traditionally used for “Official Use Only.” By federal and state laws, government entities such as counties, towns, courts and school districts are required to post certain notices in predetermined public places to announce meetings and other government actions.

However, it isn’t that simple to some residents or a government official or two. Hence, here it comes again.

Some residents want to turn the discussion into a free speech issue, which I assume would be along the lines of, “Tax dollars pay for that board. If I post something on that board and the county takes it down, that is infringing on free speech.”

That’s the argument one elected official made during the November discussion.

“I just want to make sure we are not stepping on anybody’s constitutional rights by telling them they can’t post on a bulletin board that’s in a public building,” Commissioner Donna Cox said. “Can we limit that to strictly certain people like the school board, for instance? Tell the school board they can post, can we therefore tell the general public no, they can not use that board, even though they pay for it?”

In my opinion, Commissioner Cox, yes, you can tell them ‘no.’

The public’s tax dollars pay for the county’s offices on Calvada Eye but the public can’t use the commission chambers for private citizen meetings. Is that also inhibiting people’s right to gather?

Unfortunately for taxpayers, Marla Zlotek, chief deputy district attorney, called the concerns “valid constitutional issues” and said she would look into the matter.

“The issues you have brought up are very valid issues and it would be my recommendation to let us explore those issues, First Amendment issues,” she said at the meeting.

I said “unfortunately for taxpayers” because taxpayer dollars are being wasted paying workers in the Nye County District Attorney’s office to spend time on this. Taxpayer dollars are being wasted by having county staff spend time gathering the information into the backup material for Tuesday’s meeting.

I find it interesting that some of the people behind this issue being an issue are the same people who are always on the county about government waste.

Here’s all the time that was needed to be spent on this issue: Call Clark County and ask for their well-vetted policy and adopt it as Nye County policy.

According to the Administrative Guidelines of Clark County effective Dec. 1, 1996 (19 years ago) and revised in October 2004: Section III E, “Unless otherwise authorized by the County Manager, signs, posters, or banners are prohibited in County buildings or on County property except legal notices on designated bulletin boards and official notices designating meetings, room assignments, County business and programs and required safety notices.”

There, we’re done. Can we now get on to the real problems facing the county?

Arnold M. Knightly is editor of the Pahrump Valley Times. On Twitter: @KnightlyGrind

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