City Official Hit With Ethics Complaint

City of Reno Sustainability Manager Lynn Barker proposed new performance metrics for the city's franchise agreement with Waste Management. Councilman Paul McKenzie is on the left.
City of Reno Sustainability Manager Lynn Barker.

An ethics complaint to the Nevada Ethics Commission has been filed against the City of Reno’s sustainability manager.

The complaint alleges that Lynne Barker violated several state ethics laws. The complaint, filed by attorney Stephanie Rice on behalf of waste haulers, Nevada Recycling & Salvage and Rubbish Runners, alleges that Barker ordered a raid on the company’s facility in early February.

“Barker ordered a raid on the Nevada Recycling and Salvage and Rubbish Runners facility for the sole purpose of retaliating against Nevada Recycling & Salvage and Rubbish Runners for opposing her recommendations to the (Reno City) Council and to benefit Waste Management,” she said. “Barker knew that the City of Reno lacked the authority to perform the raid, because it is the Washoe County Health District (that) holds the permits for that facility.”

The city has been embroiled in controversy over its franchise agreement with Waste Management and whether the agreement gives Waste Management exclusivity to haul recyclable materials. The other companies maintain that the intent of the city’s franchise agreement allows them to collect recyclable materials.

City Council asked city staff in December to meet with Waste Management to consider continuing to hold off on enforcing the exclusivity of the agreement while finding ways to improve it. Waste Management said at that time that it wanted the agreement to be enforced immediately.

Emails allege that City of Reno Sustainability Manager Lynne Barker asked the county to inspect Nevada Recycling & Salvage and Rubbish Runners. The City of Reno said the request came from Washoe County Health District. Click to enlarge.

Inspection Included Armed Police And Multiple Government Officials

Rice called the February 9 inspection a raid because it reportedly included two armed Reno Police officers, two city code enforcement officers, a city business license compliance officer, the Reno fire captain, a fire inspector and three representatives from the Washoe County Health District (WCHD).

“After this surprise raid occurred, when asked who had ordered the inspection, several different stories were given,” Rice said. “Initially, just about everyone indicated that it was ordered by (Lynne) Barker.

“However, after concerns were raised about the retaliatory nature of Barker’s conduct, the story changed several times, in what appears to be an attempt to cover up this gross and retaliatory abuse of power by Barker.”

City spokesperson Matt Brown said in a statement that “the inspection was requested by the WCHD acting as the Health Authority for the City of Reno, prompted by concerns that there could be possible health and safety code violations occurring at the site.”

An email by a Washoe County official said that “the inspection was initiated by the City of Reno and they requested our presence since we have the permits issued at (Nevada Recycling & Salvage)….” Barker was named in an email as the contact for the inspection.

Brown added that “(Barker) initially coordinated the Washoe County Health District’s request along with Senior Code Enforcement Officer Joe Henry, who implemented the joint inspection with the WCHD.”

Brown also said it is not uncommon for Reno Police to be on hand for code enforcement inspections.

Rice said that she contacted the county health district in December asking about any rumored violations at Nevada Recycling and was allegedly told by a county official that “the facility had no open violations or outstanding issues.”

Additional Ethics Complaints

Click to enlarge.

The complaint also alleges that Barker “sought a favor/gift/economic opportunity from private company, Waste Management (WM), through her city email address, which is in violation of NRS 281A.400(1) by asking WM representative, Greg Martinelli, if WM would sponsor and send her to its national Sustainability Forum event.”

Nevada Revised Statutes prohibit gifts to public employees:

“A public officer or employee shall not seek or accept any gift, service, favor, employment, engagement, emolument or economic opportunity which would tend improperly to influence a reasonable person in the public officer’s or employee’s position to depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of the public officer’s or employee’s public duties.”

The complaint also alleges that Barker was an executive for a non-profit organization, and maintained “resident agent” status for the non-profit through part of 2016, while also requesting in 2015 $2,000 for travel and conference registration hosted by the organization.

Councilman Paul McKenzie has repeatedly chastised city staff over the city’s waste franchise agreement. Coucilwoman Naomi Duerr and Mayor Hillary Schieve have expressed similar concerns.

Councilman Oscar Delgado said in December that he wanted to ensure that the city’s franchise agreement does not impact the smaller waste haulers.

“I think Waste Management does a great job… but that’s a big interest to me that our small businesses are not being impacted,” he said.

Brown said that he city would not comment further about the inspection.

“Based on the inspection, the City of Reno will be working with the property owner to resolve potential violations,” he said. “The City of Reno will not comment further at this time out of respect to the property owner.”

Barker did not return a call for comment.

 

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About Bob Conrad 813 Articles
Bob Conrad is proprietor and co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company (disclosure: client work includes projects funded by grants through UNR) and is an adjunct faculty member at Truckee Meadows Community College. He is a contributor to Reno Public Radio.

5 Comments

  1. This is straight out of a movie. This Lynne Barker needs to be fired right now. The proof of her misconduct clearly shows she should be removed from her position and terminated. Why is the City Council allowing this to happen? Either they are in on it or they just don’t feel like dealing with it but either way, they need to be voted out of office and fast.

  2. This article begs many questions. Who vetted Lynn Barker? Who hired her? Was there any influence from outside sources to get her hired? How and why did this position get created? Who was Lynn Barker’s predecessor? What happened to him/her? How was this position paid for originally? Was there a private grant involved? Who supplied the grant monies? How can a public employee who is supposed to be the watch dog over Waste Management ask Waste Management for thousand of dollars to send her to a seminar? This is blatantly unethical. These public employees should be held to the highest standards not the lowest.

    • These are words from Lynne barker whom would like nothing better than to shut Nevada Recycling& Salvages doors.Seattles biggest decision about waste was to outlaw all C/D to be tipped in to land fill. Seattle set a precedent to make it mandatory that all C/D had to be dumped at a single stream facility. NRS has. “I am thrilled to be in Reno,” Barker says. “My passion for conservation was born here from the summers I spent in Carson City and Dayton on my grandparents’ ranch. I hope to foster a broad coalition of people and organizations that will work together to strengthen the vibrancy, health, and prosperity of our community by addressing environmental, economic, and social challenges and opportunities.”
      Along with the Compact of Mayors, Barker’s work will include benchmarking the city’s sustainability performance, developing, and implementing a Sustainability Plan for the City of Reno. She is working with city leaders to design a collaborative approach that will bring together local leaders, regional partners, institutions, businesses, and the community to create a shared vision for the future and establish sustainability goals that will direct future actions and investments.

  3. Why would anyone want to shut down the areas only single stream recycling facility? Would it not be in the best interest to filter all dry waste through this facility? also if this is such a bad idea why is WM building one? Just think of how much landfill space we would have, if we filtered all the dry waste .from Reno,Sparks and Washoe Co. in the last 10 year’s. Just Sayin

    • We would indeed save space so that WM can continue to import trash from California.

      WM is not the only facility.

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