Friday, September 17, 2010

Bonanza Column 203 – Washoe County’s a Circus and the DA is the Chief Clown

Ya gotta love Washoe County – for sheer entertainment value it's better than a three-ring circus. We have over 400 homeless veterans in the County, a mere fraction of the homeless population, we have the Tax Revolt's Supreme Court decisions that the County simply refuses to honor, we have Reno and Sparks in a "no you won't-yes I will" battle over consolidation (while the rest of us seem to be marginalized in the argument), and if all the other laughs fail, we have DA Dick Gammick.

First the non-Gammick entertainment: According to a story in Friday's Gazette-Journal, our County Commissioner, John Breternitz, has instituted an inquiry into why, if someone wants to volunteer to keep up County parks in the face of the budget cutbacks, that person has to fill out a five-page application and submit to a police background check. Breternitz, who generally brings a lot of common sense to the matter of governing, applies that common sense here and suggests that maybe if someone wants to weed a couple of days a month, the County could make it easier for them.


According to the RG-J report, "David Watts-Vial, Washoe assistant district attorney, explained that the county application, which includes several pages of information, is extensive because volunteers may come in contact with children. The county could be sued if it doesn't weed out volunteers with criminal histories who could present a danger to children, he said."


Now I don't know Mr. Watts-Vial. He may be a perfectly good lawyer and a good guy, but he reports to the aforementioned Mr. Gammick, so we can reasonably ask if there is more here than meets the eye. If you parse his statement carefully, it doesn't hold water. If protecting children were the priority, why would we make the bar high for volunteers when any registered sex offender can come into the park, sit on a bench, and do whatever? No, like so much of the DA's office's activities, it's about covering the County's legal butt. I realize that this is a legitimate function of the DA's office, but as Breternitz put it, in this case it's bureaucracy run amok. Gammick, it seems, puts the interests of the County bureaucracy ahead of its (and his) duty to its citizens.


Speaking of the DA, in a recent debate with his opponent, Roger Whomes, Gammick refused to say that he would serve out his term if elected, and said that if he did not, he would pass the office to his first assistant. He disingenuously said his health might go bad while at the same time saying his health is great (even though he had a 7 way bypass 10 years ago and his heart stopped 7 times about a year ago, and he has a pacemaker). Gammick is known to have been grooming Assistant DA Roger Helzer to succeed him – Helzer has never tried a case in 15 years in the DA's office.

Gammick also has recently stated that he will not allow an internal audit of his office's books because the person who the County wanted to do it "is not an attorney and would not understand what they do".  Mr. DA, in case you're not clear about it, audits aren't done by attorneys but by accountants, and they don't need to understand what you do – they understand accounting and its partner, accountability. Rumors are circulating about how the Victims of Crime Fund money is used (the Nye County DA was recently arrested for misuse of same) and Gammick admits he has funds within his control that he will not let anyone into. So much for being accountable to the people who elected him.

 Gammick's propensity to be a loose cannon is clear and on the record. He has made armed traffic stops which the DA has no legal right to do, he has run off at the mouth repeatedly about court cases and judges, and generally has an irresponsible relationship to the law, to accountable, and to the public.


Roger Whomes, who is running as a Democrat because that's the only way he can run, is a good guy with a clean record including five years in the Police. Don't let the fact that he's running on the D side of the ballot stop you – the DA's office should be a non-partisan race to begin with, so rather than looking at the label, look at the ingredients – Gammick is just too toxic for the County to afford.

1 comment:

Dick Weed Baldini said...

Great commentary, Ed. It is clear, as rumored, that Gammick has groomed Helzer as his replacement.

As a lifetime Republican, I do not let that stand in the way of voting for the right man. Roger Whomes is up to the task of being the new district attorney and will bring honesty and integrity to the DA's office that is sorely lacking under the direction of Gammick.