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Commissioners kick the can on library board vacancy, re-hear elections review contract for third time


A vacancy on the Washoe County Library Board of Trustees had 22 applicants but remains unfilled after Washoe’s Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to postpone appointing someone to fill the position.

Commissioners Mike Clark, Clara Andriola and Jeanne Herman said that applicants weren’t given enough notice to come and speak before the commission and it would be unfair to proceed without giving them that chance.

County staff opened applications for the position in October 2022 and again in January and March. A final list of applicants was included on the meeting’s agenda, but those individuals weren’t notified by the county until about 5 p.m. Monday, April 24, the night before the meeting. 

“Really, that’s not a lot of time,” Commissioner Andriola said. “Clearly we have a fan club of one of the applicants who took the time to come here today, but it doesn’t seem that everyone had the equal opportunity … to present themselves for consideration.”  

Only a handful attended the meeting to speak on their own behalf. 

Commission Chair Alexis Hill voted against postponing the selection. Commissioners will take up the matter at a future meeting.

In the interim, county staff is working on a set of guidelines for the county’s various boards and commissions to include the application and selection process as well as noticing and meetings management.

Other commission business

Opioid settlements approved

Commissioners voted to approve settlements with Allergan and CVS as part of the One Nevada Agreement for opioid litigation. The settlement funds are paid to the State of Nevada then dispersed to participants in the One Nevada Agreement. 

Washoe County will receive a share of the $26.5 million settlement with Allergan – just under $1.2 million – over seven years. It’ll receive an additional $7.4 million over the next decade as part of the state’s more than $151.8 million settlement with CVS. 

One Nevada funds will be used for a variety of activities related to drug abuse prevention and treatment in Washoe County. 

Elections Group contract re-approved

Commissioners also heard – for a third time – a request from the county manager’s office to approve funding for The Elections Group review of processes and procedures in the Registrar of Voters office. The phase one contract is for $100,000. 

The contract for this phase of the work is for $100,000, within the spending limit of the county manager’s office, but was brought to the board in the interest of transparency, County Manager Eric Brown said. 

The agenda item was voted down in a 2-2 split at the March 28 meeting, but reheard at the following meeting April 11. Meeting rules allow agenda items denied in a tie vote to be reheard at the request of any board member. During that meeting it was approved in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Herman’s vote tallied in favor of the contract. 

Meeting rules allow for Herman to request the item be reheard, which she did, saying her vote was wrongly recorded and should have been against the contract. 

The item passed 3-2 with Herman and Clark voting against. 

911 surcharges considered

Commissioners voted to approve a business impact statement on a proposed increase for the  911 surcharge added to phone lines – both mobile and landlines – to help fund regionalization of northern Nevada’s 911 services. 

County staff said there’s substantial cost to the new computer assisted dispatch system and the additional funds would help to cover that cost.

Under the proposal the 911 surcharge for each mobile phone number or landline would increase by 15 cents, to $1 total per month – a $1.80 increase per line per year. The fee on a trunk line for a local exchange would increase by $1.50 per month up to $10 total per month. 

Public comments moved to end of meeting 

The format of the Board of Commissioners meeting changed this week to remove the general public comment period from the beginning of the meeting. A general public comment period is offered at the end of the meeting, and comment can be given on specific agenda items that are labeled for possible action before each is voted upon. 

Washoe County School District had structured its meetings this way for months in response to rowdy meetings where opening public comment caused disruptions to the meeting, preventing—sometimes for hours—the board to start hearing other agenda items.

Commenters at Tuesday’s county meeting complained that the new structure took away their right to speak and violated Nevada’s Open Meeting Law. 

Board attorney Nate Edwards explained that was not the case. 

“Your agenda meets the two prongs of the open meeting law,” Edwards said, describing the options for public comment required within Nevada’s law. “Historically the practice the commission has followed has been to exceed the required minimums of the open meeting law … Today’s simply opts for one of the two [options the law offers] and has [public comment] during action and at the end of the agenda.” 

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.