A DVD that was distributed to multiple sources of a meeting of the Mineral County Board of County Commissioners included the closed session from the Sept. 4 agenda that was agendized as, “Closed Session – Pursuant to Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 241.015(2)(b)(2) to receive information from legal counsel relative to potential or threatened litigation against Mineral County.
Present in the closed meeting was District Attorney Sean Rowe; commissioners Christine Hoferer, Garth Price, Chris Hegg and Attorney Brent Ryman from Erickson, Thorpe & Swainston who was retained by Nevada Public Agency Insurance Pool.
It was revealed by Ryman the closed session was held prior to Sheriff Randy Adams agenda item that read, “For consideration and possible action relative to incentive pay regarding the undersheriff.”
Ryman advised the commissioners there was a complaint filed by Undersheriff Bill Ferguson that was directed towards Hoferer and “it is protected activity under the First Amendment and I don’t think there is any way around that. That’s a complaint that harassing comments were made about him and it’s against a commissioner so that puts it a little, even closer to the First Amendment protective activity when we are talking about things like funding allocations and pay raises and those kinds of things.”
Ryman explained there was an investigation and the investigation is finished with no decision as to how to handle the complaint.
“Quite frankly there is not a lot of options we have in policing the commissioners,” he said. “You are not employees under the Mineral County Personnel Policies and so it’s not like employment action can be taken,” he explained to the commissioners. “But regardless of what comes out of that, the fact that he made the complaint is protective activity so you need to be aware.”
When the commissioners went back into open session, they advised Adams to bring the agenda item back in front of the board during another meeting after the wording has been revised.
Hoferer did counter Ryman due to the fact that the attorney had worked with Ferguson on different occasions. She openly displayed her concerns and frustration over how the investigation was handled.
In Ferguson’s initial complain, he states, “Commissoner Hoferer has made it very clear that she has a bias against me not only in my personal life but also professionally.”
According to the Nevada Open Meeting Law manual, “closed session must be tape-recorded per NRS 241.035(4). As the recordings of closed sessions are treated differently than those of open sessions, NRS 241.035(2), it is recommended the closed session be recorded on a separate tape.”