Time to take deep breath on Tiregate
The Grand Jury’s “Tiregate” report is out. It’s time for everyone in Douglas County to take a deep breath before we overreact and create more problems than we’re solving.
This is a sad episode. At its heart is former County employee Chris Oakden, now deceased, who bought tires using County funds and then resold them, pocketing the proceeds. This is inexcusable.
But I met Chris while working on a County task force. He seemed affable and helpful, not my idea of a criminal. I suspect he had a lot of people fooled. And I imagine that his family and friends miss him dearly, despite what he did, and that they are struggling with the facts of his hidden life.
Several attempts to bring this problem to light went nowhere until early 2017. There has been ample attention to it since, with some in our community using Tiregate for political advantage as a way to paint a County government they detest in a bad light.
Not long after his activities became known Chris Oakden died in a head on collision, when his car swerved into the path of an oncoming semi. We may never know, but might Tiregate have been a factor?
Other than Mr. Oakden’s malfeasance, the Grand Jury’s key finding seems to be that in 2013 Vicki Moore, at the time an accountant in the Finance Department, “questioned the excessive expenditures on tires.” Her supervisor directed her to conduct an audit. But Ms. Moore didn’t do that due to a lack of time available in a department that had suffered staffing cutbacks during the recession.
Vicki Moore later advanced to Chief Financial Officer, which seems a testament to good performance, but resigned that position as the Grand Jury’s report was released. She was sort of the last one standing. Chris was dead and other employees who may have had some culpability had by that time left County employment.
So the perpetrator is dead, the managers involved are gone, the last presumably of her own volition but no doubt under some pressure. Ironically she seems to have been the one person who took the problem seriously early on but didn’t have the resources to deal with it.
So what’s left? Well, 24 recommendations by the Grand Jury. Amounting to a lot of work dumped on a County government that faces the same stresses Vicki Moore faced. Too much work and too few resources.
Essentially because we had one bad actor out of hundreds of responsible County employees. And because overworked employees who saw something possibly amiss didn’t have the resources to follow up given cuts made by those who govern here.
Whatever his transgressions, Chris Oakden is dead and his family left suffering. Vicki Moore has lost her job. Let’s be careful about how much misery we impose on the staff left behind in the name of “doing something.” An urge that will likely be compounded by the intemperance of an election year. Caution seems in order.
Terry Burnes is a Gardnerville resident.