County responds to Trump rally critics

In an open letter to a reporter for CNN, Commission Chairman Barry Penzel confirmed that while he wasn’t asked whether the president should visit Minden-Tahoe Airport, he wouldn’t have said no, either.

“We did not ask for Mr. Trump (to come), though I believe we would not have rejected his visit either,” Penzel said. “To be fair, I believe we would have welcomed any presidential visit.”

An estimated 26,000-30,000 people turned out at Minden-Tahoe Airport on Sept. 12 after the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority rejected a similar event due to limits placed on crowds by emergency directives issued by the governor.

He pointed out that Minden-Tahoe Airport is federally funded.

“The federal government representative owner is the president of the United States, and he decided to visit the airport,” he said. “If we had time to do so we would have called a meeting as required by the open meeting law and I would have personally supported officially welcoming the visit.”

County commissioners are scheduled to discuss the presidential visit at their 1 p.m. meeting on Thursday.

One of the topics will be a $2,950 fine issued to the county by the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration over the visit.

County Manager Patrick Cates said the county and ABS Aviation, which manages the airport, were contacted on Sept. 9 by the Secret Service to use the airport for a political rally.

Cates said he approved the use after speaking with the Secret Service, the Trump campaign about the state’s coronavirus directives and security.

Over the course of the next two days, the county, airport and East Fork worked on a plan for the event.

“Originally planned for up to 10,000 people in the open air on the airport tarmac, the rally was attended by significantly more people than staff had been told,” Cates said. “There were no major incidents at the rally and, to date, there is only one positive COVID-19 case that has been associated with a rally attendee.”

Cates said OSHA contacted him the week after the rally regarding an anonymous complaint that there was potential exposure to employees.

He said that state inspectors conducted numerous inspections and on Oct. 20 informed him the county was in violation of the governor’s emergency directive regarding prohibition of public gatherings of more than 50 people.

A GoFundMe page was founded the evening news came out that the county and the airport manager would be fined and raised a significant portion of the fine.


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