Kevin MacMillan

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July 13, 2012
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Updated: Nevada ethics commission to determine if IVGID board chair violated law

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Nevada Commission on Ethics will hold a hearing to determine if Ted Fuller violated state law by voting months ago in favor of $3 million in general obligation bonds used to improve the district's water disinfection practices.

According to a July 10 opinion from the commission, Fuller, chairman of the Incline Village General Improvement District Board of Trustees, is alleged to have violated the section of Nevada law dealing with requirements of public officials to disclose conflicts of interest and to abstain from voting on certain measures.

The initial complaint against Fuller was filed Nov. 8, 2011, by Crystal Bay resident Frank Wright, a former IVGID trustee candidate. According to the complaint, Incline Village resident Aaron Katz, also a former trustee candidate, is listed as a witness.

According to the July 10 opinion, Fuller did not violate certain sections of Nevada law during his votes for the bonds, both as an IVGID trustee in 2012 and as a member of the Washoe County Debt Management Commission in 2011.

However, a two-person investigatory panel of commissioners, James Shaw and Magdalena Groover, has recommended a hearing to determine if Fuller's position as an IVGID board member obligated him to abstain from the water bond vote, and to get clarification on the law itself.

In an interview this week, Fuller said he felt he did nothing wrong, saying he is pleased only a portion of what was challenged is moving forward to a hearing.

“It appears (the commission) is using this situation as a chance to clarify the definition (of the law),” Fuller said.

The two-person panel convened on June 21 to review Wright's original complaint, Fuller's response to it and a report and recommendation about the issue from Caren Jenkins, executive director of the ethics commission.

The evidence included in the panel's report is as follows:

• Fuller was appointed in early 2011 to serve on the Washoe County Debt Management Commission as the county's GID representative. According to Nevada law, debt commission members must continue to serve on their respective local boards; in this case, Fuller did that in 2011 and this year with the IVGID board.

• Fuller was part of a unanimous vote on Nov. 4, 2011, by the debt commission to approve a recommendation from IVGID to issue $3 million in general obligation bonds for the district's water disinfection plant upgrade, as part of a federal mandate to have a secondary water treatment facility running by 2014.

• “Several Incline Village residents voiced opposition to issuance of the bonds and questioned whether Fuller should have participated in the agenda item due to his status as an IVGID trustee.”

• Fuller said he requested advice from the Washoe County District Attorney staffing the debt commission, who told him he didn't have to disclose anything and nothing prohibited him from voting.

• After the IVGID board held a public meeting on Dec. 14, 2011, on the matter, the board unanimously voted Feb. 29, 2012, to adopt the resolution granting the $3 million in bonds, with Fuller among the trustees voting.

Wright's complaint alleges Fuller violated Nevada law by taking part in both voting processes, and that his status with IVGID served as a conflict of interest.

According to the July 10 opinion, the panel recommends a hearing in order to determine if Fuller “has a commitment in a private capacity to the interests of IVGID as his employer, or as an entity with which he has a relationship substantially similar to that of an employer.”

According to Wright's complaint, the fact Fuller earns $9,000 a year from the county for services as a trustee (like all IVGID trustees) could equate to the district serving as Fuller's employer.

A date for the hearing has yet to be scheduled.

This is the third instance in the past few years of an IVGID official facing potential ethics charges.

Early in 2011, according to documents provided to the Bonanza, The Village People — a political action group composed of Incline residents — filed a request for opinion with the commission concerning the conduct of four officials: IVGID General Manager Bill Horn and trustees Chuck Weinberger, Bea Epstein and Fuller.

Scott Brooke, legal counsel for IVGID, said the ethics commission decided last year it had no jurisdiction to rule on the complaint against the district as a whole, and that officials must assess each case individually, something that could take time due to the commission's workload.

“We don't believe that the complaint has credible allegations against any individual person,” Brooke said Tuesday. “We expect it will be dismissed whenever staff gets around to it.”

In 2007, ethics complaints were filed against Horn and former IVGID Trustee John Bohn over how the two handled the resignation of former Trustee Beverly Mapps. In Bohn's case, he was eventually exonerated of any charges in an ethics commission hearing; in Horn's case, the commission did not deem a hearing necessary.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jul 19, 2012 12:07PM Published Jul 13, 2012 05:30PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.