Planning agency will loosen security at meetings |

Planning agency will loosen security at meetings

by Andy Bourelle

KINGS BEACH – The controversial decision-making board that has authority over all of Lake Tahoe has decided to drop armed guards from its regular meetings. However, guards still may be present, depending on what will be discussed.

The Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency decided Wednesday to stop spending $5,000 a year to have armed security at its meetings. However, board members indicated that TRPA staff could make the decision on a month-by-month basis as to whether security should be present.

“It seems to be there may be some sort of middle ground between having nothing and having security (every month),” said Wayne Chimarusti, the Nevada at-large member of the governing board.

Armed officers – either South Lake Tahoe police officers or Placer County sheriff’s deputies, depending on where the meetings were located – have attended the meetings since early 1997.

In February of that year, authorities shot and killed Joe Theimann, former owner of the Tahoe Queen, when he engaged in an armed attack on the marina’s owner. Police found loaded guns in Theimann’s idling vehicle and speculated he may have planned to go to the TRPA meeting next.

The marina owner had recently evicted Theimann, and earlier that day TRPA had rejected his request to move his boat to another marina.

Depending upon what is addressed each month, TRPA staff now will make the decision whether to have security present at each meeting.

Jim Baetge, executive director of TRPA, said the agency’s staff could do that. The staff did that in the past, Baetge said, and authorities were present at the February 1997 meeting.

Board members’ views on the situation varied.

“I have noticed a change in the tone of all the meetings since we have had the presence of some sort of security,” said Kay Bennett, Carson City’s representative. “I think its money well spent. It’s a sad statement about the nature of public meetings and public assembly, but it is an acknowledgement of the situation.”

Others disagreed.

“For us to have security personnel present is kind of an admission or acceptance that we can’t do work for the public without taking ourselves from the public,” said Jerome Waldie, the board’s California Senate Rule’s Committee appointee. “That’s a hard thing for me to accept.”

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