For the second time in a row the Eureka County Commission agenda contained an item regarding the recorder’s office and the closure of that office. And, for the second time the county recorder failed to appear to discuss this subject.
The commissioners Sept. 6 agenda item appeared the same day the recorder’s office was again not open for business. After a string of closures between April and August, the commissioners, at their Aug. 18 meeting, voted to write a letter to Sara Simmons, county recorder, asking for an explanation as to why the office has been closed.
The letter, dated Aug. 24, outlined state statutes that an elected official’s office must adhere to regarding the availability of the office to the public and the penalties that could take place. These repercussions include withholding of the elected official’s salary and the possibility of a criminal investigation resulting in a misdemeanor, according to the letter.
“We know the county is in jeopardy,” Chairman JJ Goicoechea said during the September meeting, adding that the commissioners have not received a response from the letter, which provided a deadline of Aug. 31, 2016.
Per Nevada statute a public office, as stated in NRS 245.040, must remain open during normal business hours, with the elected official or a deputy qualified to act in the county officer’s absence available.
Though no action was taken at their meeting on the 6th, the district attorney Ted Beutel did advise commissioners to put this on future agendas until they get a response.
“We do intend to take action,” noted Goicoechea. Commissioner Mike Sharkozy was absent and without a full board present the chair was hesitant to take action at that time.
“The commissioners are not the supervisors of each elected official – the public is,” said Beutel earlier.
However, Beutel noted that the commissioners have previously taken several steps in regard to the recorder’s office to protect the county. These included an approved leave of absence with pay for the recorder in 2015 and reassignment of financial and human resource functions away from the Recorder’s Office.
“(These) are actions taken to protect Eureka County from harm, including financial harm,” Beutel said.
“This board would like an answer,” Goicoechea said. “We have been very forthcoming and trying to help with this situation from the beginning, and we have gotten nowhere and I am beyond frustrated.”
On Aug. 29 a notice of intent to recall the Eureka County Recorder was filed with the clerk’s office. The petitioners have ninety days to collect the required 176 signatures. Once the signatures are validated by the clerk’s office, a special election will be set.
However, if the recorder chooses to resign, and does so within five days after the petition is filed with the clerk’s office, the commissioners would appoint someone to fill in the remainder of the term which is through December 2018, noted Bev Conley, Eureka County Clerk/Treasurer.