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Commission Finds City Sustainability Manager Did Not Violate Ethics Laws

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
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. Councilman Paul McKenzie is on the left.

The Nevada Commission on Ethics found that the City of Reno’s Sustainability Manager, Lynn Barker, did not violate state ethics in a recent complaint filed with the Commission.

Barker initiated an “unannounced inspection” early this year on Green Solutions Recycling, Rubbish Runners, and Nevada Recycling and Salvage (NR&S), companies that have been critical of the city’s franchise agreement with Waste Management.

The inspection involved a number of county and city officials and the Reno Police Department.

The companies said at the time that they had never been inspected to such a degree and that most violations were quickly resolved.

The inspection caused a rift between city and county employees.

Employees of the Washoe County Health District joked via email that Barker was afraid she was going to get fired, and when asked about who initiated the raid, officials of both entities struggled to get their stories straight.

Public records obtained by ThisisReno reveal that Luke Franklin, a county environmental health specialist, claimed Barker initiated the raid.

He also sent an email to Jim English, a county environmental health specialist supervisor, which said, “I got the OK from Bob before I threw (Barker) under the bus.”

(Bob is presumably Bob Sack, the director of the county’s environmental health division.)

The commission found that the raid, and other complaints against Barker, such as trying to get a conference paid for by an outside entity, did not violate ethics laws.

The Commission emphasized, however, that public employees need to be careful about accepting gifts and travel benefits from outside entities.

“The law and Commission opinions recognize that care must be taken by public officers and employees to ensure the propriety of the gift or travel on industry assistance prior to its acceptance in order to maintain the public trust and statutory compliance with the Ethics Law,” commissioners wrote.

The Commission also recommended that public agencies establish and regularly update policies regarding such gifts and travel.

“When matters arise that implicate the Ethics Law, public officers and public employees should seek legal advice from their official attorney … prior to taking action on a matter implicating Nevada’s Ethics in Government Law,” the commission recommended.

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