Today’s top local non-election stories … | NevadaAppeal.com

Today’s top local non-election stories …

Below is a roundup of the day’s top news stories. Pick up Wednesday’s Nevada Appeal for more information.

AUDIT BLASTS CARSON CITY REDEVELOPMENT

An audit of Carson City’s redevelopment program and its governing boards shows that the two-person redevelopment staff has spent unapproved money, paid businesses without first obtaining contracts and operated without a clear policy.

A city supervisor has rejected the findings of the report.

Former City Auditor Sue Johnson said in a report presented to the city audit committee Monday that she found numerous examples of mismanagement when she reviewed work occurring between July 2005 and May 2008 of City Economic Development Manager Joe McCarthy, City Deputy Economic Development Manager Tammy Westergard and the managing Carson City Redevelopment Authority, which is made up of the board of supervisors.

“Based upon the findings of the compliance audit, there is a very clear deficiency in the ‘checks and balances’ of the redevelopment process and a pattern of consistent findings,” Johnson said in the audit report. “This places the city’s internal controls over the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars at risk.”

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The city’s redevelopment program is designed to attract and retain businesses in downtown and in the south side of the city, but the audit named several problems with how it is being managed that included accusations that:

– Some projects have been approved by redevelopment staff with no approval or oversight from the redevelopment authority;

– Oversight of publicly-funded business incentive programs can and has been circumvented;

– Redevelopment staff several times spent more on services than is allowed under city policy without approval, adding up to more than $100,000.

Johnson pointed to several specific examples of misconduct by redevelopment staff. They gave about $68,000 to First Presbyterian Church for help with building, for instance, even though only about $48,000 was approved by the redevelopment authority, the report says.

There is also no record of an application for the money, Johnson said, and records seem to indicate that Robin Williamson, a supervisor and head of the redevelopment authority, promised about an additional $91,000.

An invoice for about $12,000 was sent to Williamson in 2007 from the church and processed by redevelopment staff.

But Williamson said she never promised the church money and was only working to try to preserve an historic building.

The redevelopment authority and staff have also done nothing wrong, she said, and no money has been spent without an understanding from supervisors and the city manager of why the money was being spent.

“Joe McCarthy and Tammy Westergard are incredibly valuable to the city,” she said. “They accomplish an unbelievable amount of work in a faster manner.”

MACK SEEKS TO INVALIDATE MURDERED WIFE’S DIVORCE AGREEMENT

An attorney for Darren Mack told the Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday his divorce settlement with his wife, whom he is convicted of killing, is unenforceable because she died before it was finalized.

Julia Islas said District Judge Chuck Weller never finalized the agreement because it didn’t have the agreement of Mack’s mother, who owned the majority of the family’s business and assets.

Mack was convicted of stabbing his wife, Charla, to death, then shooting Judge Weller in the chest with a high powered rifle from a building across the river from the courthouse. At the time, the two were engaged in a bitter divorce proceeding, with Weller as presiding judge.

“Nothing that happened before Charla Mack died resulted in an enforceable decree,” Islas told the high court.

HIGGS SEEKS NEW TRAIL IN AUGUSTINE DEATH

Attorneys for Chaz Higgs, convicted of murdering his wife, Kathy Augustine, asked the Supreme Court for a new trial Tuesday, arguing the FBI never provided them critical data on the methods used to determine her cause of death.

The FBI laboratory ruled Augustine’s death was caused by an injection of succinylcholine, a drug used in emergency rooms to paralyze muscles. It is most commonly used to paralyze the breathing muscles so that a breathing tube can be inserted in a patient.

Higgs, a critical care nurse, was convicted of the murder last year based in large part on that FBI testimony. Augustine, who was state controller and running for the office of treasurer at the time of her death, was found comatose and not breathing in July 2006. Suspicious hospital personnel took blood and urine samples and froze them.

The tests were ordered after another nurse told authorities Higgs had told her after Darren Mack was accused of stabbing his wife to death that the smart way to kill someone would be with succinolcholine.

PROPOSED POWERLINE ALONG SALIMAN MAY BE REROUTED

NV Energy is considering rerouting a power line it had planned to build along Saliman Road between Koontz Lane and Fairview Drive, a move that comes as good news to more than 50 homeowners in the area who raised objections.

Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira said the new plan, which came after a meeting on Tuesday morning in the office of Gov. Jim Gibbons, would route the line along the Carson City bypass. In addition to the mayor and governor, others attending the meeting were Supervisor Pete Livermore, who had vowed to help the residents find a solution, Department of Transportation Director Susan Martinovich and NV Energy Vice President Jeffrey L. Ceccarelli.

Residents opposed the project because, they said, it would block their views, decrease their home values and pose a potential health threat.

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