County delays Tiregate grand jury
It will be June before Douglas County commissioners decide whether to reserve $100,000 to call a grand jury to prosecute the $1 million Tiregate thefts.
The county sent letters to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney General in an effort to jumpstart prosecutions in the case.
A 16-month investigation into the thefts conducted by the Nevada Department of Investigation found Douglas County Motor Pool Director Chris Oakden was primarily responsible for the thefts, but there are other people listed who could also be held criminally liable.
Oakden was fired from his county job. He was killed in a head-on collision on April 24, 2017, on his way to talk to state detectives.
The department transmitted a 99-page report to the Attorney General’s Office on Aug. 31, 2018. The office then issued a letter declining to prosecute anyone else in the case on Dec. 21, 2018. The letter wasn’t revealed to the public until The Record-Courier sought it’s release the following month.
Commission Chairman Barry Penzel publicly thanked District Judge Tod Young for his quick answer to the county’s letter seeking a grand jury.
“I’d like to compliment Judge Young for reacting so quickly,” Penzel said. “I think that’s the measure of the man.”
However, the only response from the other letters sent out by the county in March was an acknowledgement of receipt from the state.
Young pointed out in his letter to the county that he received it one year after the 2017-18 grand jury issued its report, which included an investigation into Tiregate. The grand jury didn’t issue indictments because the state investigation was still ongoing, Young said.
“I wish the other agencies would have at least responded to us,
Penzel said. “I would support some timeframe of allowing the other agencies to respond before we run off with another investigation.”
Commissioner Larry Walsh suggested tabling the investigation until the county hears back from the other agencies.
Commissioner Dave Nelson said he didn’t mind a short delay, but he wasn’t willing to wait until July.
Commissioner John Engels said he wanted the grand jury’s work to start as soon as possible.
“Our persuasion is that it took more than one guy,” he said. “The grand jury has the power to subpoena and indict.”
Commissioner Wes Rice said most of the communication he’s received has been against spending the money.
“But if it puts this issue to rest it will be money well spent and our current employees will be out from under a cloud,” Rice said.
Only two residents spoke during public comment, taking opposite positions on the investigation.
Gardnerville Ranchos resident Terry Faff said he felt calling a grand jury was to satisfy a half-dozen people in the county.
Johnson Lane resident Lynn Muzzy said he felt Tiregate was a cloud hanging unfairly over the county’s honest employees.
The Record-Courier asked residents if they would sign a petition convening a grand jury to investigate Tiregate.
Out of 86 respondents, 64 percent said they would while 34 percent said they would not.