Officials tread lightly in ‘Tiregate’
County commissioners expressed frustration over the theft of what could be $1 million in tires from the county over several years.
Commissioner Barry Penzel said he was withholding comment on the thefts until the board received the results of the investigation.
“I’d love to address it, but I have to resist with all my bodily fiber from doing that,” he said. “If we go in and start messing around, we have the real capability of screwing everything up, and more important, make a false accusation.”
Penzel said he was frustrated, but that the investigation is under way.
“Making accusations that may or may not be correct is not our place,” he said. “Let’s not forget it was criminal activity. It’s not being swept under any rug.”
Commission Chairman Steve Thaler said no one working for the county was happy about the situation.
“Do we like it?” he asked. “No, I don’t think any board member or any employee likes what we’ve heard. I believe the district attorney and the Nevada Department of Investigations are working hard to finish this. It’s an embezzlement, and when you have criminal activity, it gets criminally investigated which is usually fairly secret.”
Thaler, a former sheriff’s investigator, said he doesn’t know how the investigation is progressing.
“There has been a rumor the grand jury may be looking at it,” he said. “But that’s just a rumor. It’s a secret committee. We must be patient that the results will come out.”
County commissioners accepted an audit conducted of the county annual financial report, that one member of the public pointed out didn’t address the tire thefts.
“The public thinks ‘Now we’re going to get the crucial information,’ but of course we hear nothing about what is probably the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on Douglas County,” Foothill resident Jim Slade said. “The fraud itself is a matter of fact and should be acknowledged in this report, especially since it has been going on for years.”
The audit was conducted by the firm of Piercy, Bowler, Taylor and Kern.
County commissioners also adopted a fraud, waste and abuse program and established an audit committee.
“A lot of things came to light when we were looking at internal controls,” County Manager Larry Werner said.
Werner said committee members would be recruited from the community and appointed by county commissioners.
He said committee members wouldn’t face any liability as a result of their participation.
The committee would have to comply with the Nevada Open Meeting Law. It’s membership will be determined at a later date.