The fate of Mineral County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA) is uncertain after a heated meeting of the board of county commissioners asked the executive director of the state economic development agency to look into concerns regarding MCEDA.
Deputy Clerk Heidi Johnson read into record a letter from Mineral County Board of Commissioner Chairman Garth Price after, as Price states, “I put this on the agenda, Commissioner Hegg brought this to our attending two meetings ago raising concern.”
The letter stated, “The Mineral County Board of Commissioners has declared economic development, job retention and creation, and workforce development as priorities for our County and its citizens. Furthermore, we recognize and appreciate the resources and efforts dedicated to this project by the Governor’s Office on Economic Development and its partners. Mineral County’s residents desperately need sustainable jobs in order to provide for their families and contribute to a healthy, thriving community,” the letter to Executive Director Steve Hill of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development began.
“It is with this need in mind that the Board of Commissioners directs this letter to your office to express concerns with the effectiveness and operations of the Mineral County Economic Development Authority. The Mineral County Economic Development Authority primarily operates on grants administered through GOED and the Highway 95 Authority, through in the past Mineral County has contributed financially to its projects and or operations. Although a County Commissioner sits on MCEDA’s Board, Mineral County does not direct the operations of MCEDA which is overseen by its own Board of Directors pursuant to its articles of incorporation and bylaws.”
“Our Board of County Commissioners’ concerns with MCEDA are centered around the inability of the organization to accurately report its financial circumstances and an apparent break-down in its governance through its Board of Directors. We ask that your office look into these issues and work with the Mineral County Board of Commissioners, MCEDA, and other local stake holders to ensure the economic development needs of Mineral County are able to be met with transparency, accountability, and, most importantly, success,” the letter concluded.
Directly after reading the letter, Price made a motion to send the letter to the governor’s office and was seconded by Tipton. (Commissioner Jerrie Tipton would participate via teleconference.)
Gladys Porter, Walker Lake resident, stated that she doesn’t feel that the county should take over the economic development. Price assured Porter that was not the intent of the meeting, though Hegg stated that many counties “do that”.
Price would reread the portion of the letter regarding the financial circumstances regarding MCEDA.
Sheri Samson questioned the position on the purpose of the letter and the agenda of the commissioners.
Price would reiterate that the commissioners are not looking at closing the MCEDA facility. When questioned by Samson if the board was looking for an audit, he referred to the letter as stated above as to why the commissioners are concerned.
Liaison to the MCEDA board, Hegg was asked to explain his position regarding why the letter is being sent and stated reasoning for open meeting laws (in which he got clarification from the attorney general’s office) and his uncomfortable position of possible violations.
Hegg would confer with a member of the audience regarding the accountability of grant funding. When asked at the MCEDA board, he states that board member shrugged their shoulders and could not give an answer.
MCEDA Director Shelley Hartmann explained to Hegg, “What you were told is that everything is at the accountants and is getting straightened out. You didn’t even allow us to get it straightened out. You just went off with your little drama up here.”
Tipton would explain via teleconference that, “we don’t want any control over economic development. That is its own non-profit. My concern as a county commissioner, in my opinion, the board is held to the same standards as the board of commissioners.”
Hartmann explained that this Mineral County has interfered with grant funding prior and has lost money before and “once the money is gone – it’s gone.”
Hartmann stated that this was slander.
MCEDA Board Member Glenn Carns explained that the issues raised by Hegg were from six to seven years prior. “We’ve always had a county commissioner on this board. Now we don’t [directing to Hegg] now that you’ve pulled yourself off. The county commissioners need to decide if they are going to help fix this problem and get everyone on the same page so we are working together or do we want to stop economic development.”
“There is no reason for everyone to be stressed out – we just need answers,” Price told those in attendance. “It was asked once before. We didn’t get the answers, so we are going one more step.”
District Attorney Sean Rowe was asked if MCEDA falls under the Nevada Open Meeting Law. He explained that after the last legislative session, it probably does apply, which he relayed to the MCEDA officer who asked for his advice, prior.
Porter brought up business dealings between Hegg and the Tipton’s.
Hegg said, “The attorney general’s office is open for questions such as these. They even have an online form.”
Walker Lake resident Jimmy Campos told the commissioners that they should work with MCEDA and roll out the red carpet for businesses that wanted to come here prior.
Rick Isom of Hawthorne feels that many people are reading deeper into the letter than what there is.
Hartmann gave Price letters from businesses in support of MCEDA.
Tipton stated that the letter is asking the attorney general’s office, who has the authority, to look and review and tell us who we can make MCEDA better, “We are not trying to pull money, we are not trying to black ball, we are not trying to blacklist. We just need to know where the organization is excelling and where it is deficient.”
A motion was made to send the letter to Steve Hill, of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
A statement from Jim Utterback, chairman of MCEDA was given to Independent-News after the meeting. It stated, “Our hope as addressed in the commissioner meeting is that the County Commissioners will join Economic Development in endeavors to grow the economy in Mineral County.”
A request was made to Hartmann for comment. None was given.