County tries to restart Tiregate prosecution
An effort to revive the Tiregate prosecutions will start with a flurry of letters to a variety of agencies.
County commissioners asked that letters to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI be written for their signatures.
Commission Chairman Barry Penzel said he wanted to see something at the next meeting if possible.
The letters were recommended by District Attorney Mark Jackson during a presentation on the Tiregate investigation.
He also recommended the hiring of an investigator to help finish the internal probe.
Vehicle Maintenance Director Chris Oakden used his position to obtain more than $1 million in tires on the county’s dime and sold them to employees and a Sacramento tire dealer over the course of six years.
The thefts financed regular gambling trips and cruises, one of which led to uncovering the theft in March 2017. Oakden died April 24, 2017, when he veered into the path of a semi truck while on his way to talk to investigators.
His death led the Nevada Attorney General’s Office to issue a letter on Dec. 21, 2018, that any further prosecution was moot. That letter was uncovered by The Record-Courier on Jan. 24 and resulted in a public records request for the 99-page summary report.
That report was not made part of the record on Thursday because Jackson said it would have required special notices to the 60 people named in the report under the open meeting law.
When the thefts were uncovered, Jackson’s office conducted an internal probe into the Tiregate thefts starting in March 2017.
Because the internal investigation can require county employees to incriminate themselves, nothing raised during that investigation can be used in a criminal investigation, Jackson said.
The Nevada Division of Investigation began its probe the same time. Members of the Douglas County Grand Jury investigated the thefts, and issued their report in March 2018.
Another idea floated on Thursday was to ask District Judge Tod Young to call a grand jury to specifically deal with the Tiregate issues.
A grand jury could issue indictments in the case that could then be pursued by a special prosecutor.
Nevada law allows a grand jury to be called for a specific purpose with signatures from 25 percent of those who voted in the last election. That would require around 6,600 signatures of voters registered in Douglas County.
Commissioner Dave Nelson raised the possibility of having a citizen task force examine the issue.
“I think that to maintain the public trust, someone who isn’t in government should conduct this investigation,” he said.
Penzel pointed out that commissioners aren’t prosecutors.
“We’re looking at trying to continue the prosecution,” he said. “We’re not prosecutors. We’re just five residents who got elected and trying to ferret through all this information. I do think this does need scrutiny from another prosecutorial office. My hope is that the U.S. Attorney will take it.”