Choice words for Douglas County commissioners
The Board of County Commissioners unprecedented action Jan. 3 replacing three planning commissioners, all of whom had applied for re-appointment, was ill-advised, self-serving, vindictive, and, frankly, despicable. In addition, your action was so obviously pre-arranged that it was a clear violation of the Open Meeting Law. You placed your own personal agendas ahead of the best interests of the citizens you were elected to serve.
Commissioner McDermid: your action replacing Planning Commissioner Lawrence Howell was transparent retribution for his having had the temerity to run against you.
Despite your repeated denials that this wasn’t the case, no one believes you. You said you wanted fresh faces, then had the gall to nominate Don Miner, a discredited former county commissioner, who was voted out of office because of his all-too-cozy ties to developers. Not exactly a fresh face.
You also stated that four, five or seven years (the time the sitting planning commissioners up for re-appointment had served) “was a lot of commitment,” and that was why you were replacing them. I assume that means, since you’ve already committed more than eight years to the county, that we should expect your resignation shortly.
Commissioner Lynn: as a developer yourself, you need to be careful not to confuse your own self-interest with that of the 50,000 citizens you are meant to represent. Our master plan embodies a set of overarching principles that are meant to guide our county through good times and bad, much like the U.S. Constitution guides our great nation. You suggested that because of the recent economic downturn, particularly, as you mentioned, related to development, that we needed a different interpretation, a different perspective on our Master Plan. This was presumably embodied in your vote for pro-development zealot Don Miner. This is self-serving and not in the interests of the county as a whole.
Commissioner Bonner: you have gotten off to a very disappointing start, marching in pre-arranged lock-step with the other three. I would honestly be surprised if you’ve ever been to a Planning Commission meeting, but you had no hesitancy, in your first day as Commissioner, in replacing Mr. Howell, one of our most effective, engaged and thoughtful Planning Commissioners, with Mr. Miner, a shill for developers. Shame on you!
Commissioner Olson: I don’t know if you’re the ringleader or a pawn in this action, but you are equally culpable. You helped orchestrate what was not only an insult to the community, but an obvious, willful violation of the open meeting law. Do you actually expect anyone to believe that the four of you just happened, on your own, to think it best to replace three sitting planning commissioners with the same three other applicants? No one is that gullible.
Your separate efforts to remove Planning Commissioner Pross were regrettable, embarrassing to you and the county, and, in all likelihood, illegal. Your attempt to intimidate her into resigning (with the threat that the board would vote her out if she did not resign) was an abuse of authority and violated any number of Nevada statutes. It is especially disturbing since it was done in clear retribution for Ms. Pross having exercised her right to free speech.
Additionally, you seem confused as to whom the planning commission serves. Even though the board appoints the planning commissioners, they serve the county as a whole, not the board. They can only be removed for specific reasons, none of which apply to Ms. Pross. This is another sad example of how the current board wants to control the planning commission, rather than allow them to be independent as they are designed to be.
You also ignored the advice of (then) Vice Chairman Brady to speak to the district attorney before proceeding with your rash act. If you had, you would have learned that what you planned to do was not allowed by Nevada law. As everyone knows, ignorance of the law is no excuse. It is also evident that you had the support and encouragement of commissioners McDermid, Lynn and Bonner in this act, which makes it another open meeting law violation.
Commissioner Johnson: I applaud you for your willingness to stand up for what you believe in and what is best for the county. It is clear that you were blind-sided by this action, and were as outraged by it as anyone. Your comment that “we can’t have communication … amongst ourselves on these replacements” suggests that you too believe that the open meeting law was violated.
This action by the other four was the essence of bad governance. It was Tammany Hall-style politics at its worst: eliminate your opponents and reward your friends. Abraham Lincoln said: “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Sadly, the four of you failed that test. You should be ashamed.
Jim Slade is a Gardnerville resident.