FlashVote terminates contract with IVGID over allegations of public deception | TahoeDailyTribune.com

FlashVote terminates contract with IVGID over allegations of public deception

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — At the Dec. 14 IVGID Board of Trustees meeting, district legal counsel Jason Guinasso announced that effective Dec. 1, the third-party citizen governance system FlashVote terminated its contract with the district. On Dec. 27, IVGID received a check for $2,041.67 from FlashVote — the remainder of the $4,900 pro-rated fee the district paid for the service as part of a one-year contract — ensuring IVGID will no longer use the service as a digital survey tool to gain feedback from residents. It marks the end of a rocky relationship between both parties, one that in recent months was clouded with differing views on who owns resident data compiled over the years through the public-private partnership, as well as differing views on if IVGID was trying to break Nevada law by allegedly manipulating verbiage of questions. FLASHVOTE BACKGROUND IVGID signed a one-year contract with FlashVote — owned by Incline resident Kevin Lyons — on May 2016, following two-plus years of beta testing with the service. During the trial period, IVGID was able to push out surveys for free, and in turn the district helped promote FlashVote to Incline/Crystal Bay residents through a mailing, email newsletters and other communications in order to solicit people to sign up for the service. With that, FlashVote also received an email list of residents to help Lyons promote the service, according to the district, and that email list was maintained through the paid period of community surveys. In a follow-up email to the Bonanza, Lyons stated that FlashVote — which now operates under the company Governance Sciences Group, Inc. — started collaborating with IVGID on an informal pilot basis in late 2013, and eventually grew its user base to over 400 residents. He said he started working with IVGID after observing the district operate and concluding that, "the management and board at the time were making some common but preventable mistakes based on lack of good input and oversight from the public." When asked who owns the citizen information in FlashVote's IVGID community, Lyons said his company does, because when users signed up through the FlashVote website, they directly agreed to its terms of use (regardless of who the private company contracts with). However, Guinasso said the original email list provided to Lyons during the beta period years ago served as the foundation for FlashVote, and thus the development of the company's database — therefore, that email list is owned by IVGID. "The contract clearly delineates who owns what," said Guinasso. According to the contract, "customer data" is defined as "non-public data provided by (IVGID) to (Flashvote) to enable the provision of the Services … such as non-public citizen email addresses or other non-pubic citizen data." Under that clause, Lyons stated in an email to the Bonanza that, "IVGID has not provided us any customer data and they know that." Guinasso, meanwhile, said that if FlashVote sends surveys moving forward to the user database that IVGID helped build, that puts IVGID in a position to take legal action since it has an obligation to protect its residents' data. "Our big concern is solely on the data solicited and developed from our citizen database," Guinasso said. "We want to make sure it isn't misused or used at all without the consent of the people who signed up. If (Lyons is) using it for his own benefit, then that's harming the public and we have an obligation to protect that information. "The data was collected for a single purpose — to survey the community on behalf of the public." According to previous reports, Lyons has indicated that security issues are not a concern. "Privacy and security are central to the service," Lyons said in a June 2015 Bonanza story. "Anonymity is key to receiving that honest feedback without repercussions." Why FlashVote Ended the Contract with IVGID Lyons stated that a key aspect of getting citizens to join FlashVote and participate in surveys is because the company is an independent third party — and thus, not a government — that is trusted by users to maintain the quality and anonymity of the surveys. FlashVote customers always pick their topics and questions, Lyons said, but FlashVote makes sure all questions go through an extensive, 23-point quality control process before they go out to citizens. "FlashVote made the decision to terminate IVGID as a customer after a second incident where IVGID management demanded that these quality control standards be ignored," Lyons stated in an email to the Bonanza. "The first time this happened, FlashVote maintained its integrity by rejecting the survey and moving forward. The second time, FlashVote believed it was being asked to ignore not just the quality standards but also Nevada state law (NRS 197.130) against making false and misleading statements to the public." As part of research for this story, the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza obtained copies of extensive email strings between Lyons and IVGID Communication Coordinator Misty Moga, other IVGID staff and Guinasso, specific to the "second time" Lyons referenced in his statement. That string in late November details how both sides disagreed about the wording of a potential FlashVote question regarding updates to the district's trash law, Ordinance 1. According to the emails, IVGID wanted to ask residents about planned changes to the law, which would bring it in line with the district's new franchise agreement with Waste Management, which, per IVGID, "requires residential customers" to use wildlife-resistant containers or bear boxes. Lyons disagreed with IVGID's wording, alleging that, among other concerns, an ordinance is what "requires" residents to do something per Nevada law, not a franchise agreement — and thus, by wording it otherwise, IVGID was intentionally misleading the public. That then spiraled into a back-and-forth accusatory exchange between Guinasso and Lyons. "No one is asking you to publish anything that is false and/or misleading … You are, once again, aggressively attempting to dictate to IVGID what they can publish in FlashVote and what they cannot publish," Guinasso wrote. "There is nothing constructive about unilaterally vetoing and/or revising language." Lyons responded, in part: "If IVGID wants to send crappy surveys (or worse), including previously rejected questions like they did recently with surveygizmo, that's up to IVGID. But we can't and don't do that — its the core of our value proposition to citizens and governments … We can no longer continue working with IVGID after the present intransigence and the perceived risks and hassles of continuing in this way." In a follow-up interview, Guinasso was asked if he or the district was deliberately attempting to break state law and/or intentionally mislead the public. Guinasso said that ordinances stand on their own regardless of implementation of a third-party service, and the verbiage in the Waste Management franchise agreement shouldn't affect the ordinance. "The franchise agreement is on its own track. It's already confusing enough to the public, so why make it worse?" asked Guinasso. Another Incident Between FlashVote and IVGID In July 2016, FlashVote sent out a "grassroots" survey about trash to some members of the Incline Village/Crystal Bay community. It read, in part: "NOTE: This is a Grassroots survey (beta) that has not been approved by IVGID or any government agency. Grassroots surveys may be sponsored by citizens or other community benefactors to give governments data they may not know they should have." In an email statement to the Bonanza for this story, Lyons said the IVGID logo was accidentally included in the survey due to a technical error, and the image was removed halfway through its release. The survey itself asked residents if they were aware of the garbage/recycling changes going into effect and their reaction to it. In another email string between Lyons and IVGID, Lyons stated to Moga in a July 28 message, "Just a heads up that it looks like we will doing a one day 'grassroots' survey on garbage service this afternoon, sponsored by some local citizens. It wont interfere with the regular survey scheduled for next week, but dont hesitate to call or email me if you have any other questions or concerns!" When asked for this story, Lyons declined to say who the private group of citizens was that sponsored the "grassroots" survey. IVGID apparently did have concerns, considering the perception that residents may struggle to distinguish between an IVGID-sanctioned survey, and a separate one sponsored by district residents — both being on a similar topic. According to the emails, Moga asked Lyons to hold off on sending the survey until it could be discussed with IVGID General Manager Steve Pinkerton. Lyons responded: "I cant actually do that, since someone else is the customer in this case…" Moga asked Lyons if he was using the IVGID-provided email list to conduct the private survey. Lyons responded, "It goes (looks like went) out to our users in the geographic area they selected which is the IVGID district which is Incline Village and Crystal Bay." When asked about this instance, Lyons emailed the following statement to the Bonanza, "FlashVote has never sent an 'unauthorized FlashVote survey' and FlashVote does not have an 'IVGID-provided customer database.' FlashVote customers have to approve every survey we launch for them." ADMINISTRATIVE DIFFERENCES? IVGID Trustee Matthew Dent has been a major advocate of FlashVote since joining the Board of Trustees as an appointee in 2015. He was elected to a full term earlier this November. Dent currently holds the second highest points in FlashVote's "IVGID group leaderboard" behind former Trustee Jim Smith, who resigned in August 2015 (of note, Dent was who replaced Smith on the board). Dent said he promoted FlashVote because he felt that IVGID needs a function for surveying the community, and that this allows the community to have its voice heard. "It's unfortunate that they ended their contract from what I understand is due to administrative differences between IVGID and FlashVote," Dent said. Guinasso said it is IVGID's duty to use local vendors when possible. One of FlashVote's current customers, Placer County, encouraged its citizens to sign up for FlashVote through its communication outlets, indicating that FlashVote retains the rights to all of the data it collects. The two surveys the county sent out in August and September had a positive response, said Placer County Spokesperson DeDe Cordell. "Our experience with FlashVote is positive. Anytime we can get more data on what we do, it's great for us," says Cordell. "A lot of people don't trust government period, so this is a great tool to get more data." She added that of all the tools the county uses to communicate, FlashVote's service is the least expensive. According to a proposal between Flashvote and Placer County provided this week to the Bonanza, Placer signed on for the same $4,900 rate. The Truckee Tahoe Airport District has also used FlashVote. General Manager Kevin Smith said the district sent out a FlashVote survey for its Master Plan project in 2015, and did not use it again. "I think it's a good product, but my Board just isn't impressed with surveys in general, so we did not continue using it," Smith said. According to an email from Lyons, FlashVote maintains a healthy client base, including several regional government agencies, such as the Tahoe City Public Utility District and city of South Lake Tahoe. Of that base, it appears IVGID has been the "lone problem child." "No other government has ever had the slightest problem or hiccup with this process," Lyons wrote in one of the email strings obtained by the Bonanza. "In fact they all deeply desire and appreciate it. IVGID management has now generated a problem for us twice in the last 6 months as the lone problem child." In his email to the Bonanza, Lyons indicated he's "enjoyed working on surveys with all the IVGID staff members who are dedicated to serving our community and hearing how useful FlashVote survey results are to their work. FlashVote will be open to considering alternative ways to continue to serve the IVGID community of users in the future." Kayla Anderson is an Incline Village-based freelance writer. Email her at kaylaanderson1080@gmail.com. Bonanza Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to the research and editing of this report; you may email him at kmacmillan@sierrasun.com.

Parasol’s building proposal gets no quick answer

The nonprofit Parasol Foundation may have to wait a while before they find out if they’re off the hook for the financial responsibility of their building. The Incline Village General Improvement District Board of Trustees tabled discussion June 12 on a controversial proposal that would move IVGID out of its old building and into the Donald W. Reynolds Community Nonprofit Center. Currently, the district owns the land that the building is on, but the Parasol Foundation owns and maintains the center. “There seems to be this false narrative here that taking the property back is one of the options. That isn’t what we have here,” said District General Manager Steve Pinkerton during the meeting. “What we have here is an offer from the Parasol that as an alternative to their current way of business they would like to change their business model. They are not requiring that they change their business model.” A district memo from the meeting shows the foundation is seeking $5.5 million in the deal, and would like to retain space in the building for its own operations. According to the foundation’s website, Parasol partners with charitable donors to make their contributions more meaningful. Pinkerton said the proposal before the board would allow the district to take over the building now, rather than in approximately 80 years like the original lease had intended. “This is not a proceeding where there is a default, this is simply a situation where they would like to change the terms of the lease in what they see as a win-win, wherein they are proposing that we take over the improvements now and not some 80 years from now, and that they would then like to tap the assets they have in the building for the purposes of running a foundation,” he said. Tax documents for the Parasol Foundation show the nonprofit’s 2014 total functional expenses of $5,245,546 exceeded their net income of $3,615,819. In 2013, their $8,114,806 in expenses exceeded their income for $5,054,147. The foundation’s net income in 2012 was $955,625 compared with $4,077,131 in expenses. In 2011, their net income was $969,378 and expenses totaled $3,632,503. Continuing his address to the board, Pinkerton said, “So what they’ve proposed is, ‘We would like to get out of the property management business, we would like to tap the assets we have in the building, we have a building that right now you do not have the right to occupy under our lease and options for another 80-plus years. What we’re proposing is modifying the lease where you take over the improvements in the building sooner and get a benefit from those, and here’s the price that we would do that for.” He said that under no circumstances is the proposal a discussion about the district declaring a default on the lease. “We keep hearing this in the community over and over again, and that’s not one of the options on the table,” he said. “The board has the option of either looking at an agreement where we take over the property sooner and pay Parasol some consideration for the building, or we just continue with the lease as-is.” As part of the “lease modification,” the foundation, which currently supports other local nonprofits by providing them workspace in the building, would no longer do that. District documents state that the foundation would continue to provide financial support to the nonprofits instead of working space. The district has long considered relocating its administrative facility because the current structure is outdated, but questions remain as to whether the foundation’s $5.5 million proposal is the most financially sensible option. Trustee Philip Horan said despite concerns in the community whether the district has the authority to modify the lease, legal counsel has assured the board that they can. “From here forward, I’m committed to keeping this as an item on our agenda to continue the conversation at every board meeting,” said Trustee Kendra Wong. “When the time comes to make a decision, whenever that may be, this will likely be an item that’s a special meeting that will be the only thing that we discuss.” Wong said later in the meeting that she expects this to be a very lengthy process. Pinkerton stated that once the final decision meeting is scheduled, he would work with staff to make sure that is clear on the agenda. District documents regarding the Parasol Foundation lease modification proposal can be viewed at yourtahoeplace.com/ivgid/resources/ptcf-modification-request. You can review documents and watch the June 12 meeting at yourtahoeplace.com/ivgid/board-of-trustees/meetings-and-agendas. Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at arhoades@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.

North Tahoe officials mum on domestic partner vote fallout

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. ” Members of the Incline Village General Improvement District are restraining comment about the Board of Trustees’ decision last week to disallow domestic partner benefits for district employees. IVGID General Manager Bill Horn said the district is considering discussing the issue at its next meeting on March 11, but reserved any other comment. “Right now (IVGID legal counsel) Scott Brooke is analyzing what took place last August, what took place last week and what could happen (on March 11),” Horn said. “At this point, that’s all we’re commenting on.” Horn said he and IVGID Board Chair Ted Fuller decided this week that Horn, Fuller and Brooke would be the only district representatives to comment on the issue. Fuller, who is on vacation in Mexico this week, could not be reached for comment. “The newspaper has made a controversial issue … and we decided that either he (Fuller) or I be the spokesperson on this issue,” Horn said. “The appropriate thing is to make a story out of this on March 11.” The story first was published on tahoebonanza.com on Feb. 26. In a Tuesday phone interview, Brooke decline to comment on Horn’s comments. “I’ll do what I’m asked to do by the board,” Brooke said. “I don’t have any other comment.” Brooke could not confirm if the issue will be on the Wednesday, March 11, IVGID Board of Trustees agenda. That meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at 893 Southwood Blvd. Susan Herron, IVGID’s administrative assistant, said the March 11 IVGID BOT agenda should be made public by Friday morning. Last Wednesday, Feb. 25, Fuller and IVGID trustees Gene Brockman and John Bohn voted in favor of rescinding benefits for domestic partners, while trustees Chuck Weinberger and Bea Epstein voted to keep benefits available for them. The question came before the board at a trustees meeting August 27, 2008, not long after the district’s insurance provider ” St. Mary’s Preferred Health Insurance ” decided to offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners. At that meeting, Bohn and Brockman were out-voted by Epstein, Weinberger and former trustee Bob Wolf to begin offering benefits to domestic partners. At Wednesday’s meeting, another vote took place on Bohn’s request, which reversed last year’s decision. According to IVGID financial research, the move could save the district about $1,500 in benefits expenses, the estimated amount the district would pay through the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2009. The district is looking to cut 5 percent from its $47 million budget for the next fiscal year, staff has said. Lois Paynter, senior director of operations for St. Mary’s, said the insurance company never has had an instance of someone trying to abuse the domestic partner portion of its policy. “No, no, no, no, no,” Paynter said. “It’s never happened. There’s a specific set of rules they (domestic partners) have to follow to apply for insurance, and they have to follow those rules.” Horn, who directed members of his staff not to comment on the issue, said he could not comment on the procedures IVGID follows or has followed in regards to employees’ domestic partners applying for health benefits.

Local spokesman dies from brain virus

LAKE TAHOE – Dennis Oliver, of Incline Village, died Wednesday night following a serious, month-long illness. He was 47. Oliver, the public information officer for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, was an extremely valued employee of the agency during the last three and a half years, according to TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta. “Dennis’s love for Lake Tahoe, combined with his superlative writing skills, made him an exceptional spokesperson for our agency and we are deeply saddened over his loss,” said Marchetta. Oliver relocated to Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area in 2007. He was a key team member of the successful campaign for a ballot initiative to raise funds for fuels reduction work in the Douglas County portion of the Tahoe Basin and was a board member of the Sustainable Tahoe Congress, according to the TRPA. “Dennis made a major impact on Lake Tahoe during his time here,” said Julie Regan, external affairs director and Oliver’s supervisor and colleague. “We will remember his laughter, his extraordinary talents and especially his unwavering commitment to Lake Tahoe’s restoration.” In addition to his work with TRPA, Oliver ran for the Incline Village General Improvement District during the June 8 primary. He did not receive enough votes to move on to the general election. He referred to his primary run this summer as a success because he got some residents and voters “focusing on the future and letting go of the past,” according to a June interview after he lost in the IVGID primary. “His passion for environment and the Lake Tahoe Basin came out in everything he did and everything he said,” said Bill Horn, IVGID general manager. “He will be genuinely missed.” Oliver spent more than 27 years as a reporter, editor, writer, instructor and communications professional. He covered environmental policy, investigative news and special projects for the Oakland Tribune for three years. He also worked for six years as the director of communications for California Alliance for Jobs, where he focused on promoting public infrastructure work for two California labor unions. Impassioned for nature and the outdoors, Oliver also authored two regional travel, nature and outdoor guides, “Inside Out Northern California” (1999) and “Camping! Northern California” (2001). He earned a Bachelor of Arts at Saint Mary’s College of California. Oliver supported the arts and enjoyed painting in his spare time. He was also an avid poker player and supported many charitable poker tournaments at local casinos. Services are currently being scheduled. Staff members at TRPA are initiating an arts and environmental education fund in his memory. For additional information, contact Jeff Cowen, TRPA community liaison, at 775-589-5278 or send an e-mail to jcowen@trpa.org.

Nevadans vote in legislative primaries

CARSON CITY – Early Nevada election returns Tuesday showed Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio leading challenger Sharron Angle, while another veteran Republican lawmaker, Assemblyman John Marvel, trailed in a packed, six-way primary battle. The early returns showed Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, running second behind former Assemblyman Don Gustavson in Assembly District 32. In other primary contests, GOP Assemblywoman Francis Allen of Las Vegas, who won a dismissal of a charge stemming from a fight that left her husband with a stab wound, was lagging behind in her re-election bid; and Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, was ahead in his bid to move up to a state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Dina Titus. Former Assemblyman John Bonaventura was trailing in his uphill challenge of Sen. Steven Horsford of North Las Vegas in a Democratic primary; while former GOP Assemblyman Lou Toomin was running behind Robert Zavala in his efforts to get the Republican nomination in the race for Titus’ Senate seat. The highlight of the five Senate and 20 Assembly primaries was the battle between Raggio, first elected to the Senate in 1972, and Angle, an anti-tax conservative, for Raggio’s Reno-based Senate District 3 seat. Raggio’s name recognition, strong support from other GOP leaders and a huge fundraising edge over Angle – $289,500 compared with her $35,000 – seemed to ensure him a primary victory. But the 81-year-old lawmaker took no chances, walking door-to-door in 90-degree-plus weather to meet with voters. Marvel, first elected to the Assembly in 1978, was in a tougher battle. Besides Gustavson, his other primary opponents included GOP activist Mike Weber, who came close to defeating him two years ago. And there was the added uncertainty of the way six primary candidates were splitting the vote in a low-turnout election. Allen, in a four-way GOP primary contest for her Assembly District 4 seat, sent out what may be the campaign season’s most unusual mailer – telling constituents she’s divorcing her husband of just more than four months because of his “unstable” behavior during an argument that left him with a small stab wound on the arm. Allen said the incident, which led to a felony charge that was dismissed in July, has become a campaign issue and she’s willing to talk with voters about it. Her husband, Paul Maineri, first told police Allen stabbed him but later said he accidentally stabbed himself. Parks filed for Titus’ state Senate District 7A seat after Titus opted to run for Congress. He wound up in a three-way Democratic primary against Steve Nathan – a self-described moderate who calls Parks too liberal – and Brandon Casutt. First-term Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Henderson, was behind in a GOP primary battle for his Assembly District 21 seat against Jon Ozark, who figured he’ll benefit from Beers’ legislative record. That record includes a sharp break with his party in 2007 when he authored a bill to stop a major Las Vegas casino from requiring dealers to share tips with supervisors. Beers, who has the same name as state Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, said he simply was trying to help people in his district with the measure, which wasn’t approved. Assemblywoman Kathy McClain had the best primary battle of any of the incumbents. Fellow Democrat Patrick Boylan filed against her for the Assembly District 15 seat, then decided to suspend his campaign. But it was too late to have his name removed from the primary ballot. Secretary of State Ross Miller estimated about 15 percent of Nevada’s nearly 1.3 million eligible voters would cast ballots statewide. Early reports out of Clark and Douglas counties indicated 15 percent might be optimistic while Washoe County officials said they were on target for 20 percent turnout. At many polling places there were more volunteers than voters. Of the 1,100 registered voters in one precinct in east Reno, only about 20 voters showed up to cast ballots, and in Elko County’s West Wendover, only 44 out of 845 turned out.

Incline district to review decision on domestic-partner benefits

INCLINE VILLAGE ” A review of a recent vote that revoked health insurance benefits for domestic partners of Incline Village General Improvement District employees is on the board of trustees agenda for its next meeting. The IVGID Board of Trustees will meet at 6:30 p.m. on March 11. According to the meeting agenda, General Business item K-1, titled “Request for review by Trustee (Bea) Epstein ” change in health insurance coverage to allow for coverage for legal spouses, regardless of gender, and domestic partners,” will be on the agenda, and the board could take action on it. IVGID General Manager Bill Horn said district legal counsel Scott Brooke will assist the board in the review process at the March 11 meeting, adding that the board isn’t required to take action on anything. “Scott is going to review the action taken in August, the action taken last week, and offer guidance or comment on the review process for a past agenda item,” Horn said. “This doesn’t call for an action ” Scott will help the board through the review process.” The board voted 3-2 (with John Bohn, Gene Brockman and Ted Fuller in favor; Chuck Weinberger and Bea Epstein opposed) at its Feb. 25 meeting to revoke domestic partner benefits to district employees. In August, not long after the district’s insurance provider allowed for domestic partner coverage, the board voted 3-2 (with Weinberger, Epstein and then-trustee Bob Wolf in favor; and Bohn and Brockman opposed) to allow domestic partner coverage to its employees. The issue has gained steam since that meeting, as The Associated Press and other national media outlets have published reports about the trustees’ vote. The issue also is circulating through various national civil rights communities. Lee Rowland, Northern coordinator for the Nevada Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, offered her comment on the IVGID vote. “This is quite a tragedy,” Rowland said. “Frankly, I think it’s a poor decision. It’s unfortunate, not only because we are in a fight for domestic partner equality, but it’s particularly tragic when you vote to remove those rights when those rights existed in the first place, and then were taken away. “To actively decide to turn back the clocks and take away life from them, it’s tragic. We wish the board will reconsider this and do the right thing.” As of Thursday, Rowland said the ACLU was not considering any lawsuits against IVGID; however, she said things could change depending on any action taken at Wednesday’s board of trustees meeting. In a Wednesday interview with the Bonanza, Chris Eddelson, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, said he was disappointed with the Feb. 25 vote. “We’re certainly disappointed to see this; I really don’t understand why equal benefits would be taken away from domestic partners,” Eddelson said. “It’s not a big cost issue, but it does matter to the employees. Taking away these benefits in a time of economic crisis doesn’t make much sense.” HRC is a grassroots organization of more than 750,000 members that dubs itself as the “largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization,” according to its Web site. According to IVGID, the Feb. 25 decision affected two district employees. Furthermore, eliminating domestic partner benefits saves the district about $1,500 in benefits expenses, the estimated amount the district would have paid through the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The district is looking to cut 5 percent from its $47 million budget for the next fiscal year, staff has said. With the benefits no longer available, it eliminates the possibility of abuse of district policy, such as if a friend or roommate of a district employee tried to gain domestic partner benefits, one of the concerns for Bohn and Fuller. Lois Paynter, senior director of operations for St. Mary’s, said earlier this week that the insurance company never has had an instance of someone trying to abuse the domestic partner portion of its policy.

TRPA withdrawl sponsor defeated in primary election

CARSON CITY, Nev. – The North Las Vegas lawmaker who sponsored the bill to pull Nevada out of the TRPA was defeated in the primary. State Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, was overwhelmingly defeated in the Democratic primary against newcomer Patricia Spearman. Spearman had 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Lee. The contest is expected to be decided with Spearman’s primary victory because of the strong Democratic voter edge in the district. Lee was also one of the sponsors of the bill to pull Nevada out of the TRPA. Progressive activists targeted Lee because of his conservative stand on some social issues. Spearman’s victory, however, won’t alter the political landscape as Republicans and Democrats face off in several other Senate districts in the effort to take control of the 21-member house in 2013. The Nevada Priorities PAC, which supported Spearman in her underdog challenge, said Lee was their initial target because of his weak voting record on issues relating to education, civil rights, the environment and women’s choice. Las Vegan Danny Tarkanian narrowly beat out state Sen. Barbara Cegavske in the 4th Congressional District GOP primary, surviving a tough challenge in the contest to see who will face Democrat state Sen. Steven Horsford in the November general election. The son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Tarkanian overcame bad publicity surrounding news that he and his family face a $17 million judgment in a civil real estate case out of California. The race was close, with Tarkanian ending up with 32 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Cegavske. Cegavske won the more populous Clark County in the district which also stretches across much of rural Nevada. Tarkanian made up the difference with strong showings in the rurals, including Esmeralda, Lyon, Mineral and White Pine counties. But Tarkanian faces an uphill battle in the new congressional district created in Nevada as a result of the 2010 census. The district, composed of parts of Clark County and several rural counties, has a 113,000 to 90,000 Democratic voter edge as of the close of the primary. “Voting records have consequences,” said Priorities PAC spokesperson Annette Magnus. “When we have a so-called friend abandon us on issue after issue, we were left with little recourse but to launch an independent campaign to educate primary voters.” Lee raised more than $208,000 for his re-election bid, while the Nevada Priorities Political Action Committee raised $86,000. Spearman raised less than $14,000. The statewide primary featured very low turnout by registered voters statewide. Fewer than 20 percent of active voters cast ballots in the primary. There were no surprises in the other state Senate primary battles, with the toughest challenge in the GOP Senate District 9 contest, where Mari Nakashima St. Martin fended off Brent Jones. The race featured allegations of “partying” by St. Martin, while Jones was questioned about whether he took advantage of a mentally disabled man more than a decade ago by selling him two ostrich eggs for $30,000 to establish an ostrich farm. The race pitted GOP Senate Caucus favorite St. Martin against Jones, an avowed opponent of new taxes. St. Martin had 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Jones. A similar GOP primary battle occurred in Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, defeated Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, and Conrad Vergara. Hammond was the GOP Senate Caucus choice who voted to continue a package of expiring tax hikes in 2011, while McArthur ran as a no taxes candidate who opposed the package. Hammond had 56 percent of the vote to 41 percent for McArthur. For Democrats, Kelli Ross defeated Donna Schlemmer in state Senate 18 and will face Hammond in a district that has a Republican voter registration edge. The Senate races are critical to both Republicans and Democrats to determine who controls the Senate in the 2013 legislative session. Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge. The other three state Senate races in play between the parties are Senate 5, 6 and 15. The party primaries in Senate 5 and 6 had no surprises. Senate 15 in Reno had no primary. Republicans need to win four of the five races to take an 11-10 edge in 2013. In some of the other races and issues facing voters around Nevada, the Laughlin incorporation vote went down to defeat. Residents of the community 90 miles south of Las Vegas rejected the idea of forming their own city by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. There were no surprises in the other congressional races. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., both won their primaries in the Senate contest. Former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., had no opponent in the 1st Congressional District. She will face Republican Chris Edwards in November. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., will face Democrat Samuel Koepnick, who won his primary on Tuesday. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., was easily winning his primary in the 3rd District and will face Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, in November. In the two State Board of Education races, Allison Serafin and Ed Klapproth, were leading among five candidates in District 3 in Clark County, with 31 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively. Both will appear on the November ballot. In the District 2 race in Northern Nevada among five candidates, current board member Dave Cook had 31 percent of the vote and Donna Clontz had 25 percent. Both will be on the November ballot. Former Lt. Gov. and Regent Lonnie Hammargren had just over 50 percent of the vote in the race for the Board of Regents in District 12. Andrea Anderson was second in the four person race with 28 percent of the vote.

Legal fight is brewing over beach access

INCLINE VILLAGE – A small group of Crystal Bay residents have sparked anew the issue of access to beaches owned and operated by the general improvement district here, circulating a petition this week and threatening litigation. The Crystal Bay residents contend that members of Incline Village General Improvement District governing board, who uphold that beach access should be limited to most Incline residents, should recuse themselves from voting on the codicil of the district’s recreation pass policy that affects beach use. The petition states: “The Honorable Trustees of the Board of Trustees of said District, and each of them, to recuse themselves from any further participation nor voting on the Proposed Ordinance Number 7 on the Recreation Pass Policy, on the grounds that to further participate in any plan, action or vote on the District’s Beach Properties would be a violation of law.” The lawsuit, some district officials and Incline residents say, is reminiscent of a suit filed in 2001 by then Cal-Neva resort owner Chuck Bluth, in an attempt to gain access to IVGID-owned beaches for Crystal Bay residents, including potential property or timeshare owners at the Cal-Neva. Bluth’s group, 2001 Beach Access Inc., tried to argue IVGID’s 1968 deed restriction to IVGID beaches. A countersuit aimed at keeping local beach access restricted was also filed. Bluth’s suit was eventually dismissed. Leading the countersuit effort was Incline resident, Maryanne Ingemanson, who since that time has gained notoriety as president of the League to Save Incline Assets. The group’s effort to question the way local property tax valuations are done reached the state supreme court. A decision on property tax valuations is predicted to come down this fall. This week, Ingemanson noted the irony of having to start up a fight with Crystal Bay residents after working through the courts to defend their property tax rights. “What’s that they say about no good deed going unpunished?” Ingemanson asked rhetorically. IVGID staff this week said they will, again, fight to keep IVGID beaches private. “We spent $250,000 defending the beach access issue and our position hasn’t changed,” IVGID general manager Bill Horn said. Constitutional right? Organizers of the Crystal Bay group said this iteration of the beach access issue will not present the same argument Bluth did five years ago. When dissecting the language of the Crystal Bay property owners’ petition, it postulates IVGID trustees are in “violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and Article 4 Section 21 and Section 25 of the Nevada Constitution.” If using the Constitution to protect beach access sounds like a tenuous connection, one needn’t look further than Leydon v. Town of Greenwich, Conn. (2001). In 1995, Brendon Leydon, a Connecticut resident, filed suit after being denied access to the municipally held park called Greenwich Point. Leyden wanted to jog the beach area of the park, but was turned away from the park because of a town ordinance that denied access to non-residents. Pursuant to the ordinance, a non-resident could only visit the beach when accompanied by a town resident, much in the way that IVGID beaches are run, supporters of the Crystal Bay petition said. Leyton filed suit arguing that the park and beach were a traditional public forum open to all citizens. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with an Appellate Court decision that state residents may have access to the municipal park and beach. The Connecticut Supreme Court focused almost exclusively on the First Amendment argument that the beach was a traditional public forum. The result was to allow access by nonresidents to the park and beach rendering the town ordinance unenforceable. Lawsuits pending … While the new group of Crystal Bay petitioners may be taking a different tack than Bluth did, those poised to take the fight to court once more feel the case, in any iteration, is a re-tread, but this time goodwill has been squandered. “It’s another extortion attempt, we’ve been there, done that,” Ingemanson said. “It sounds to me as someone who wants something that belongs to someone else. The people in Incline Village are really past hurt, really extremely upset with the fact that we have tried to be good neighbors. “They had a huge, huge problem in Crystal Bay with their utilities, they couldn’t get a decent shower – by merging with IVGID, in a very solid, good, well-written contract, Crystal Bay homes suddenly had power and water – at the end they were given, evidently, the right to use recreation facilities. There was never, ever any agreement that they could use the beaches.” But Crystal Bay petitioners, led by Frank L. Wright, feel the beaches are their right, regardless of the current agreement with IVGID for other services. “Basically there are two classes of people here in the eyes of some,” Wright said. “There are Incline residents with privileges and then there’s the rest of us. We all earn the same tax base and we all pay into the same general fund. “I wrote a letter four years ago asking for a rebate on my taxes because I don’t have (beach access). This has gone on way too long. The board has two choices: They can grant access to beaches for all Incline and Crystal Bay residents, which would take no litigation; or, if they don’t do that (IVGID board members) are in violation of the public interest and they’ll have to face up to it in court and come clean.” The issue Both sides can agree the issue is a simple one. “It sounds complicated, it isn’t,” Ingemanson said. “(These) Crystal Bay people think they have a Constitutional right. If you gave them what they want that doesn’t mean Reno couldn’t sue us or even Kings Beach. If they want to take that step again, they really have the possibility of suffering very bad consequences.” Those on the other side also say the debate is simple, but with a different end result. “The simple issue is (we’re) asking the (IVGID) board to act in a constitutional manner,” said Crystal Bay resident Ron Code. Whether this fight does reach the court, some feel the “damage may already be done” and some of the goodwill between the neighboring lakefront communities could be fractured. “If they’re going to threaten every five years, we can say that rec use facilities were never deeded,” Ingemanson said. “So if you want to sue us, we can remove all that from the table.”

District to buy five acres near Incline Lake

INCLINE VILLAGE – It took one of North Shore’s original purchasers to convince Incline Village General Improvement District trustees and a diverse group of Incline residents to sign off on the purchase of a 5-acre parcel near Incline Lake. Trustees voted 3-2 to purchase the property for $1 million to be paid for over the next three years. “This isn’t a decision about business plans and fee increases,” said 75-year-old Manny Sylvester, involved in the original purchase of the land that is now Incline Village. “It’s about the future. If we had had a business plan 47 years ago, we wouldn’t have bought 9,000 acres and we probably wouldn’t be here.” A diverse demographic spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, including home and business owners, parents and one Incline teen. “This area near Incline Lake would not only allow local scouts to do our outdoor activities in centralized area, it would benefit numerous community programs and all the kids in Incline schools,” said 16-year-old Boy Scout Kyle Richter. Although the board signed a letter of intent to acquire the parcel in November, vice chairman Gene Brockman and treasurer Beverly Mapps were the dissenting voters. They said they still didn’t have enough information about how the property would be used or how the district could finance the purchase to move forward. Brockman also questioned the parcel’s boundaries, as well as what role Washoe County and the Nevada Department of Transportation would play in a joint collaboration to manage activity on the property. The Incline Lake property acquisition is also contingent on the U.S. Forest Service’s acquisition of the 770-acre parcel from the 19 private shareholders of the Incline Lake Corp. Last August, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., announced on the shores of Incline Lake that the land would be acquired by the federal government. Initially, IVGID was asked to “partner” in the land’s management, but later specific parcel was carved out for their acquisition by Minden-based consultants Terra Firma Associates. Because the forest service does not traditionally build, maintain or operate structures on its land, and that IVGID would like to eventually build a “gateway” multi-use facility on the five acres, the district was offered a “piece of the lake” in the fall. Board Chairman John Bohn, trustee Bea Epstein and secretary Bob Wolf, who all voted in favor of the purchase, said the land acquisition was an opportunity that the district couldn’t pass up. “Right now we need to make up our mind and move forward,” Wolf told the board during deliberation. “I move to accept staff’s recommendation to move forward with the purchase and then explore all alternative funding means other than raising the recreation fee.” With the addition of a $1 million purchase to its budget, IVGID Director of Finance Ramona Cruz said next month will be spent setting spending priorities. IVGID district manager Bill Horn informed trustees of two alternative funding sources. The state attorney general is reviewing a motion that would allow the use of Washoe County open space and parks funds (nearly $450,000) to help pay for the parcel, Horn said. The Arthur B. Schutlz Foundation, which provides grants to preserve wildlands and conserve recreational opportunities, has also committed $150,000 to the district’s purchase.

Reader Poll Results: What do you think about California’s newly approved right-to-die measure?

Please note: Poll results are not scientific and are for entertainment purposes only. What do you think about California's newly approved right-to-die measure? 66.01 percent (637 votes): I support it. 13.47 percent (130 votes): I support it, but only under specific circumstances. 11.71 percent (113 votes): I'm not sure. 8.81 percent (85 votes): I'm against it.