Fire investigator fined in ethics complaint
An ethics complaint allegation was upheld against an East Fork Fire District fire investigator last week.
Capt. Terry Taylor allowed an employee of his private firm to investigate a case he’d worked on, which the Nevada Ethics Commission ruled was a violation.
However, the board also ruled that because Taylor had already conducted his investigation and announced the results, that the incident didn’t affect his judgment.
According to a stipulation, Las Vegas Private Investigator Timothy Lomprey filed the complaint including nine separate allegations on Nov. 23, 2016.
Taylor, who has worked for East Fork since 1997, routinely investigates fires outside of the county with the permission of the district chief. Taylor held a private investigator’s license that would allow him to examine fire causes for the private sector.
Under that license, Taylor was not allowed to conduct investigations while on duty or use any district supplies or staff in Douglas County or any case in which the state is a first-party defendant.
According to the ethics commission, Terry Taylor Investigations employed two independent contractors and worked 30-40 private cases a year for attorneys and insurance companies.
On Dec. 22, 2015, Taylor responded to a fire on Vicky Lane, where he found that a lithium battery was the cause. A few weeks later, a private client requested one of the contractors working for Taylor investigate the same fire.
The client was an insurance company working for the manufacturer who made the battery Taylor blamed for the fire.
Lomprey was hired to investigate the fire on behalf of the home’s insurer. Both Lomprey and Taylor’s contractor interviewed him about his investigation.
Taylor received $1,659.40 for the time it put into the investigation.
Taylor admitted he violated the conditions of his agreement, according to the ethics commission.
That constituted a single violation of Nevada’s ethics law.
However, because Taylor had already conducted his investigation and announced his conclusions before knowing the battery manufacturer hired his company, it didn’t affect his conclusions.
“… The preponderance of evidence does not support the allegation that such employment, engagement or economic opportunity tended improperly to influence a reasonable person in Taylor’s public position to depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of his public duties.”
That’s because both Taylor’s investigation for the district and his company’s investigation found the battery was responsible for starting the Vicky Lane fire.
Lomprey’s investigation came to the same conclusion, which was that a radio-controlled car battery on a Venom Pro 2 charger was the source of the fire.
As a result of the ethics complaint, Taylor, who is scheduled to retire from the fire district in May, must pay a $500 fine and turn the $1,659.40 fee over to the state.