Chiropractor defends ethics filing
June 6, 2016
Gardnerville chiropractor and former Planning Commissioner Don Miner said that he filed an ethics complaint after hearing a county employee lived near a gravel pit proposed by Douglas County Sewer Improvement District No. 1.
The sewer district, which treats all of the effluent from the Lake Tahoe portion of Douglas County, is seeking to mine aggregate in order to help defray the cost of digging a new sewer pond in the East Valley.
Miner filed an ethics complaint against the planner who was working on the project, saying she didn't disclose to the public she lived within sight of the haul route for the mine.
In a letter to The Record-Courier, Miner said that the Douglas County Board of Commissioners has no jurisdiction over him.
He said a May 23 meeting conducted by Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson didn't offer any opportunity for rebuttal.
Miner denies he received advanced notice about the meeting's content, although he was notified the meeting would discuss his and others "character, alleged misconduct, competence, or physical or mental health."
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Jackson contends that in order to discuss anyone, the county has to provide that notice beforehand.
Because the meeting was for presentation only, it was "effectively closed to public participation," Miner said.
Sev Carlson, who is representing the Douglas County Sewer District No. 1, spoke during public comment both before and after the presentation.
Carlson said that because none of the people listed in the agenda worked for the county, the meeting was in violation of the open meeting law.
None of the sewer district board members attended the meeting.
"I understand that subsequent to Mr. Jackson's public theatrics, representatives of Douglas County Sewer Improvement District No. 1 requested a special meeting of the county commission within which they could present a reasoned response to his assertions."
Jackson said that his office would present an ordinance to Douglas County commissioners on June 16 to dissolve the district.
When first presented in September 2014, commissioners reacted positively. The project went to the Douglas County Planning Commission on Dec. 9, 2014, where it was approved over the objections of an attorney for the developer of Grandview Estates.
After an election-like campaign, which included signs, a website and advertising, the sewer district announced it was altering the plan.
Instead of running trucks up East Valley Road and down Buckeye Road and Toler Avenue to reach Highway 395, the district reached an agreement with Chris Bently to use Stockyard.
Trucks would then use Heybourne to go either north to Airport Road or south to Muller Parkway.
Planning Manager Hope Sullivan, whom Jackson said had rented a home in the East Valley, purchased that home during the summer of 2015. Over Labor Day 2015, she said she went to the gate of the sewer district land and said she could see her home. Jackson said she consulted with Deputy District Attorney Cynthea Gregory, who told her she had to disclose the potential conflict to Community Development Director Mimi Moss.
Moss said Sullivan's new home was outside the noticing area for the project and told her to continue working on the project.
In November, Sullivan presented her recommendation for approval with six additional conditions related to screening of trucks along Stockyard.
The proposal was rejected by planning commissioners 4-3, with the commissioner who replaced Miner voting against it.
On May 23, Jackson played tapes from a December meeting of the sewer district board in which members can be heard discussing the possibility of an ethics complaint.
Miner confirmed he received a $1,000 check from district engineer Rob Anderson in connection with the ethics complaint.
"I received compensation for my time," he said in an email to The Record-Courier. "In this matter I was retained as a consultant to prepare the ethics complaint and paid $1,000 for that work."
In his letter, Miner said he didn't believe he would have the same time as Jackson to make his case.
"The prospect or opportunity for me, a mere businessman and member of the public to obtain equivalent public time and attention afforded to Mr. Jackson by the county commission is highly unlikely," Miner wrote. "Therefore, short of filing an expensive and time consuming legal action, most of which will be hidden from the public, I have no public venue within which to respond to the baseless claims and unfounded allegations that together amount to no more than some machination of a political vendetta against those Mr. Jackson is prosecuting publicly."
Miner said he filed the ethics complaint after being contacted by Anderson in connection with some research he had.
"It was during this meeting that he presented to me the findings from research by others into the actions and involvement of Ms. Sullivan prior to the November 2015 Planning Commission meeting," Miner said.
Anderson allowed Miner to read a copy of a memorandum prepared by attorney Rich Hsu, who had served as a member of the Nevada Ethics Commission for eight years, about the potential violations of Nevada's ethics law.
Miner said he had a conference call with Hsu on Feb. 9 at which they discussed the matter, and after that call decided to file the ethics complaint.
Miner said a grand jury should investigate the District Attorney's Office. A grand jury may only be called by the district judges or by a petition of residents.
Miner was a Douglas County commissioner for eight years and on the planning commission for four years.