County invites IVGID officials to address alleged misconduct | SierraSun.com

County invites IVGID officials to address alleged misconduct

Josh Staab
jstaab@sierrasun.com
Marsha Berkbigler

Incline Village General Improvement District officials have been invited to participate in a Washoe County Commission meeting to address accusations of alleged misconduct lodged against the district.

In a letter addressed to IVGID chairman Jim Smith, WCC chair Marsha Berkbigler addresses “specific issues and questions constituents have brought to (her) attention.”

Those issues, according to Berkbigler, include:

• IVGID-sponsored transportation services and IVGID’s approval process for providing transportation services; statutory authority to provide transportation services; and funding for transportation services.

• The IVGID approval process for magazine publishing; statutory authority to provide magazine services; and funding for magazine publishing.

• The status of IVGID recreation fees with regard to such fees that previously were collected to pay bond debt now that the bonds have been retired; and the authority and approval process to repurpose recreation fess for other uses.

“I’ve had a large number of people in Incline Village look into how IVGID is using recreation fees and other fees that are paid by residents,” Berkbigler said.

While all three allegations will need to be addressed separately, the lack of transparency seems to be at the root of the issue.

Berkbigler noted a $5.5 million Recreational Facilities bond IVGID trustees approved in 2002 that helped finance a $6.5 million project to replace the Chateau’s old facilities with a combined community center and golf clubhouse.

Residents who filed complaint with the county against IVGID alleged that once the bonds were paid off, rather than reimbursing the residents for their contributions or going to the board, clandestine decisions were made to do “smoothing,” Berkbigler said.

That “smoothing” took the form of rounding out recreation fees to a flat yearly fee.

“It was not a bad idea,” Berkbigler said. “But it may have been done without a public hearing.”

If true, Berkbigler said the decision would be in violation of open meeting law, which prohibits a representative, body or staff to do something with citizens’ money without a public hearing.

Berkbigler hopes the letter, which was also addressed to IVGID general manager Steven Pinkerton, will at the least open a channel of dialogue between the district and the county. Though neither Smith nor Pinkerton are required to attend the meeting, Berkbigler hopes they do.

“I’m responsible for trying to resolve all concerns,” Berkbigler said. “They need to show documentation of the public meeting related to the magazine and the bonds.”

In a written statement, Smith, who serves on the Washoe County Organizational Effectiveness Committee, addressed the allegations in broad terms, emphasizing the “excellent historical relationship” between the county and the district and the importance of working with Berkbigler to “provide services and support” for the community.

“That being said, because of the various legal issues involved in the Commissioner’s letter we have asked our legal counsel to work with the Commissioner to answer her questions,” Smith wrote. “As of now, I’m planning on attending the meeting; however, there may be limited issues I can speak to.”

Berkbigler believes there is no reason to believe there is a conflict between IVGID and the county, but she emphasized the rights their constituents have to lobby their allegations against the district.

“I received more than 100 messages from residents in Crystal Bay and Incline Village complaining (about these issues),” Berkbigler said. “If it is true they have violated public meeting laws or spent public money without letting (the public) know first, they need to fix that problem.”

If there is no evidence of misconduct, “we will say that we had a full public meeting and (IVGID) is operating within the confides of the law.”

Devon Reese, IVGID’s legal representative, expressed the district’s position that there has been no violation of open meeting law, though it has not yet determined how to address the commissioner’s request.

“We are in discussion with the (county) District Attorney’s office to resolve that matter,” Reese said.

He added there has been no decision whether or not to appear before the commission at this time.

“We intend to meet Washoe County’s needs of information and we are trying to figure out a way to satisfy that need while also being sensitive to the needs of the Attorney General,” Reese said.

The commission meeting is scheduled for Aug. 25 at 3 p.m.