Several key details have come to light following the Ely City Council’s controversial move to enter the closed offices of the Nevada Northern Railway on Sept. 2 to gather information for a forensic audit.
After completing an investigation into the matter, the White Pine County Sheriff’s Department said in a released statement that “the allegations of burglary and trespassing are unfounded at this time” due to the city being the owners of the historical railroad foundation after it was gifted from Kennecott Copper in 1987, which includes the office building in question.
The investigation also found further support for the city council’s entrance in the foundation’s bylaws, which were amended and approved by the city council in May of 2012.
“All books and records of the corporation may be inspected by any member, his agent or attorney, for any proper purpose at any reasonable time,” article five of the foundation’s bylaws states.
Sheriff Dan Watts also clarified his involvement the afternoon the council entered the office.
“I received a text message from Councilman (Bruce) Setterstrom saying that the council was headed down to the railroad to gather information. That was it. I never gave anyone permission and I never spoke with the mayor,” Watts said.
The investigation will now be handed over to the district attorney’s office.
White Pine County Commissioner Mike Coster also came forward to say that he was the person who climbed up the ladder to the second floor of the office building and entered through an unlocked window after moving an air conditioning unit.
Coster called The Ely Times to correct a report that had previously said Setterstrom had been the first to enter the office. Coster further clarified that his actions were that of an individual, not of a county commissioner.
“I was not there in any official capacity. I simply was the smallest person there that would fit through the window,” Coster said.
The city council’s actions drew a big reaction last week from the NNRY’s Executive Director Mark Bassett and his lawyer Scott Husbands, who both called the situation a “break-in.”
Mayor Melody Van Camp said the council was simply working with their auditor to get him the information he needed to complete the city’s forensic audit of the railroad’s finances. Van Camp said the council’s greatest concern is the debt of nearly $600,000 that the railroad has accumulated, not including another near $375,000 with their contract with S and S Shortline. Van Camp said the city should hear back from the auditor in six weeks.