Nevada ethics board to make ruling |

Nevada ethics board to make ruling

Andy Bourelle

The Nevada Commission on Ethics will be asked to make a recommendation about whether asking Douglas County businesses to help pay for a county planning position is a conflict of interest, according to the district attorney.

“What they advise, if anything, is what we will do,” said Scott Doyle, Douglas County district attorney.

The Board of Douglas County Commissioners last week agreed to put a county planner in the offices of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. It is expected to be a big step in streamlining the basin’s permit process, where one planner will handle all of the permits for TRPA and Douglas County for that portion of Lake Tahoe.

Douglas County is planning to provide the planner while TRPA provides the facilities in which he or she can work. However, Douglas County is pursuing the option of raising part of the money to pay for it from local businesses.

Steve Teshara, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance, has raised the question of whether a conflict of interest will exist because many of the contributing agencies also will be putting forth proposals for the planner to consider.

“If the people submitting proposals are the same people providing money to support the planner, there is at least the appearance of (a conflict of interest),” Teshara said. “The concept is good if it will work. It may be the case that the county has to fund it without asking for money from the private sector.”

Doyle said Douglas County had not addressed the issue prior to last week’s meeting because, without the board’s approval to pursue the idea, there would have been no reason to address it. Now Douglas County staff will establish a plan of how to organize the structure of the project and how it will be funded. When that proposal is ready, Doyle will present it to the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

“I’m hoping we can get some type of recommendation from the ethics committee in time for our final budget hearing in May,” Doyle said.

Based on the recommendation, Douglas County will either continue with the plan, restructure it or remove it from the budget, Doyle said.

Don Miner, Douglas County commissioner and vice chair of TRPA’s governing board, said he is confident a structure of paying for the position will be established. He is hopeful it happens as soon as possible, too.

“As Douglas County permits get cleaned out, it will lessen the burden on the other jurisdictions, expediting more work around the basin. If this pilot program is successful, it can be replicated in other jurisdictions,” Miner said. “I think the results will be quick, and the results will be beneficial to Douglas County and all of Lake Tahoe.”

While TRPA historically focused on building regulations, officials have altered its purpose in recent years with the creation of the Environmental Improvement Program as a guideline for saving the clarity of Lake Tahoe. Instead of spending all its time reviewing property owners’ projects, TRPA now tries to focus more on restoration projects.

TRPA is implementing a Permit Integration Program that is supposed to streamline all of the permitting processes in the basin. It should allow TRPA staff – as well as other government members – to spend more time on EIP projects.

Rick Angelocci, TRPA’s chief of project review, said the Douglas County planner at TRPA’s office is a big step in the right direction.

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