Lyon County Commissioners deny Sheriff’s request to change command structure
The Lyon County Board of Commissioners on Thursday turned down outgoing Sheriff Alan Veil and his Undersheriff’s request to eliminate the rank of Undersheriff and Field Services Bureau Captain and to allow the two people holding those positions to volunatrily demote to the rank of Lieutenant and to authorize the creation of two Lieutenant positions within the Sheriff’s Office.
Adding to the discussion, current Undersheriff Albert Torres on November 4, 2014 lost his bid for the Sheriff’s position to incoming Sheriff Al McNeil and current Field Services Bureau Captain Brian Veil is the outgoing Sheriff’s brother. Both have served for many years within the department.
Their current positions are appointive and not protected under the Sheriff’s employees bargaining agreement.
Debate centered around the legal ability of the Board of Commissioners to make decisions regarding the elimination or creation of positons within the Sheriff’s Department and the rationale for the Sheriff making such a move just a month prior to his leaving office.
Citing NRS codes, Sheriff Veil argued the Board of Commissioners do not have a legal right to interfere with his inner department organization and, in a sharply worded statement, lambaseted County Manager Jeff Page for placing the issue on the agenda. He accused him of having a personal agenda and charged he was taking retaliatory action against him.
“This issue is between he and I,” Veil told the Board. “This issue should not even be befor the commissioners. Are we seeing a control issue that so many of us were afraid of? The most disturbing part is he is now he is threatening me with an ethics complaint becaue I did something he didn’t like or objected to. Ever wonder why I decided not to run for a third term?
“No one from the county nor the Sheriff Elect has objected to this re-organization, at least not to my face or in any written correspondence other then the mentioned documents from Jeff Page. That is hard to accept.”
Veil noted that Sheriff Elect McNeil has already indicated he plans to eliminate the positions, leaving the two long-time employees out of a job, and noted “I now believe the County Manager discovered he made an egregious error and is now trying to avoid the repercussions.”
He also charged the agenda item was posted unlike most agenda items, claiming “This demonstrates that a clear and discriminatory and retaliatory action is being taken against the former undersheriff and me for exercising our first amendment rights of political free speech.”
(Editor’s note: In reviewing the agenda item as posted, I noted no differences between it and other postings.)
Veil said the County Manager had no right to countermand his orders and pointed out that the County Manager and two commissioners openly supported McNeil in the recent election..
In response, Page, cited a budget policy adopted by the Board of Commissioners several years ago that requires (and clearly states) that the creation of any new county positions must be approved by the BOC and the approval or disapproval of the two new Lieutenant positions was the only issue at hand and emphasized the agenda item specifically states the request for the BOC to agree to create two positions and allow these individuals to demote down to them or not to approve the positions.
“It has nothing to do with their employment today or in the future,” Page stated. “That is an operational issue for the next sheriff down the road. If you create the positions, then the sheriff is allowed to do what he’s going to do to get that done.”
Page told the board that the County’s Labor Attorney has voiced some concern the proposed action potentially is in violation of NRS, based on a prior State Attorney General opinion. The Lyon County District Attorney’s office recommended the County seek an opinion from the State AG.
Page has also been informed that a grievance or grievances have been or will be filed in regards to this issue by sworn employees of the Sheriff’s office.
In a memorandum to the BOC, Page said, “This is an unprecedented situation that an elected official desires to implement a reorganization and reclassification of Command staff after an elections but before he or she leaves office.”
During dicussion, three commissioners questioned Veil’s motivation for the “final hour” reorganization and, while Veil claimed the request would save the County money, Page said staff has not done any cost analysis in regards to the proposal and the Sheriff has not provided a cost analysis.
Commissioner Virgil Arellano pointed out, “The BOC do not hire or fire anybody. The only person we can hire or fire is the County Manager. I am sitting here wondering why the last three, four budget sessions when this board, especially the last three budget sessions, when we’ve asked the Sheriff to eliminate the Undersheriff position he didn’t want to do that. So here we are with a reorganization at the mid-night hour to save the taxpayers money. If the Sheriff wanted to save the taxpayers money he should have done this re-organization months ago….”
It was also pointed out there have been no transitional type meetings between Sheriff Veil and incoming Sheriff McNeil
Commissioner Virgil Arellan made the motion to deny. Commissioners Bob Hastings, Vida Keller and Arellano voted in support of the motion. Commissioner Ray Fierro opposed the motion, preferring the issue be continued until an opinion on the legality of the BOC to act be requested from the State Attorney General’s office. Commissioner Joe Mortensen abstained from the discussion because of a family relationship to the Veils.