Settlement on Carson City supervisor’s ethics complaint to be considered
June 18, 2017
The Nevada Commission on Ethics on Monday will decide whether to approve a settlement of a complaint filed against Carson City Supervisor Brad Bonkowski.
The complaint was filed with the commission on Nov. 7, 2016, by Jerry Vaccaro, a local businessman, and concerns a vote taken by the Board of Supervisors on July 7, 2016.
The vote approved an amendment to a long-standing agreement with the Nevada Department of Transportation outlining the details of the transfer of South Carson Street and a patchwork of rights of way to Carson City.
Bonkowski voted to approve the amendment without disclosing a limited liability company he's a partner in owned at 4385 S. Carson St. and was responsible for underground gas tanks — that have had a history of problems — beneath an adjacent NDOT right of way, which was specifically addressed in the amendment.
After an investigation of the complaint, a two-member commission panel determined in April there was evidence pertaining to four sections of Nevada ethics law and sufficient cause for the case to be heard by the eight-member commission.
The commission and Bonkowski, represented by the Carson City District Attorney's Office, have reached a settlement to dismiss two of the findings, according to the supervisor.
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"I am happy to have been able to work with the Ethics Commission to resolve this item. As the stipulation states, I did not think there was a conflict, but the commission disagreed on two of the four charges, dismissing the remaining two. I have learned much through this process and appreciate the efforts of everyone involved," said Bonkowski.
The four sections of ethics law the commission considered were duty to avoid conflict of interest, improper use of government position to secure unwarranted advantage, failure to disclose a conflict, and failure to abstain as required by statute.
According to Yvonne Nevarez-Goodson, executive director, most complaints before the Ethics Commission are settled and outcomes run the gamut from dismissal to fines levied against the individual if his or her actions are determined to be willful, or knowingly and intentionally done.
The complaint stems from a vote on an amendment detailing the transfer of South Carson Street from Fairview Drive to Snyder Avenue once the freeway bypass opens this summer.
The commitment to transfer ownership of the road from NDOT to Carson City was made in 2004, before Bonkowski was elected to the board.
The amendment approved in July 2016 set out the schedule and specifics of the arrangement and included a section on the gas tanks under the dormant gas pumps in front of Red Hut Cafe.
At the time of the vote, the tanks were the responsibility of Gregg Street Partners, Bonkowski's LLC, which bought the property in 2005 for $800,000, according to the city assessor. Gregg Street Partners subsequently sold the property to Red Hut Shopping Centers LLC on Nov. 21, 2016, for $895,000.
The tanks were installed in 1981, according to NDOT, and once used when Woody's Convenience Store operated there.
In the mid-90s, there was a known release of petroleum from the tanks, according to the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, which oversaw cleanup and the tanks were closed in 1996.
NDEP periodically inspects the tanks and in 2009 they were found to be out of compliance. Gregg Street Partners obtained a permit from NDOT to conduct remediation work and in July 2010, NDEP said they were in compliance and stable and were considered "temporarily out of use" by NDEP.
The section in the road agreement amendment referring to the gas tanks says Carson City takes the right of way acknowledging the "possible presence of hazardous wastes and/or regulated materials in, around, and/or under the (underground storage tank) system and further agrees to hold NDOT harmless .…"
It goes on to say if hazardous materials are found the city "agrees to assume any and all cleanup associated therewith."
The Ethics Commission meeting is at 2:30 p.m. Monday in the Governor's Office of Economic Development, 808 W. Nye Lane.