Reconsiderations, recounts in today's news

Paper: Nevada Appeal - 27 days to the millennium - Friday, Dec. 6, 1974

Publisher: Donald W. Reynolds

General Manager: Jack D. King

Editor: John S. Miller

Advertising Manager: James Collins

Circulation Manager: Alan E. Ruff

Production Manager: Paul W. Stuke

Published daily except Saturday at 102 S. Division Street.

A Nevada owned member Donrey Media Group.

In 1974, the actions of the Carson City Board of Supervisors are being called highly suspect as the board attempts to demote Fire Chief Lester Groth.

Groth said the board "felt I was not running the fire department properly and felt it was time for a change."

Change came in the supervisors' attitudes once Groth's firemen circulated recall petitions.

"The day after this was started the board called me in and gave me my position back," he said.

Most of the animosity between the board and Groth stemmed from his attempts to do what was right for his men, he said.

"I would always have to go in and fight to get more for them," he said. "They kept saying they would unionize and the board didn't like that. They eventually formed a union and so the union went in to fight for them instead of me always fighting for them."

Groth said when word got out about what the board was trying to do "people came absolutely unglued. They felt I was doing a good job.

"Once it hit the paper, I don't think a day went by when there wasn't a letter supporting me and condemning the board of supervisors."

The Appeal Dec. 6, 1974,printed the following letter in favor of Groth:

Bill Green of Carson City wrote: "Praises fire service" To the editor:

I was shocked and surprised to learn that the Carson City Board of Supervisors were considering relieving Fire Chief Groth of his job.

During the 14 years that I have lived and done business in Carson City, I have found Fire Chief Groth not only cooperative but always willing to give help and advise on any matter concerning fire prevention and better ways of building to insure the safety of the citizens of Carson. Under his direction, Carson City has grown from a small volunteer Fire Department to three stations with both paid and volunteer firemen.

I have seen our Fire Department under Chief Groth's direction at work and his main concern has been to save lives and to save people's property from as much damage as possible.

I certainly hope that our supervisors will check this situation out thoroughly before they decide to make any changes, as a man of Chief Groth's capabilities and past experience is not easily replaced.

Groth served as volunteer fire chief for Carson City from 1959 until the city hired him as Carson's first paid chief in 1964.

When he was made chief the city had three paid house-men that manned the city's stations in 24-hour shifts.

When he left in 1978, there were 28 paid employees.

Groth took the threats of the leaders of the now combined Ormsby County and Carson City to remove him from his post seriously and hired a Daniel Walsh as his lawyer to refute what the board was saying.

City Manager Hank Etchemendy told the Appeal in 1974 Groth had not used his volunteers efficiently, and produced no new ideas in the management of the department, did not prevent members of the local firefighters' union from appearing on television and criticizing the city.

"They felt that I was not doing a good job in my budget," he said. "For them to say I was not budgeting properly is beyond my belief. I made recommendations, but the city manager took care of the budget."

Other letters to the editor commended Groth for not squelching the firefighters' television appearances, saying:

Chief Groth has been criticized for "allowing" his men to appear on television. Neither Chief Groth, nor the Board of Supervisors has the right, either legal or moral, to grant or deny such action by the firemen. In this Country, a citizen's right to be heard, to express a point of view, are just that, - his RIGHT! Chief Groth is intelligent and humanely sensitive enough to know the difference between rights and privileges. He knows which one is not his to control. It is, in our opinion, unfortunate that the Board of Supervisors seems unable to discern the difference.

Instead of censuring Chief Groth, the Board of Supervisors should be deeply grateful to him for saving them the embarrassment of explaining to the Ralph Naders of today's society just why Chief had been allowed to suppress the rights of his firemen, had he NOT "allowed" them to appear on television.

The letter was signed by 28 members of R.E.A.C.T., which Groth's brother George thinks was a local search and rescue unit in Carson City at the time.

Groth returned to his position, "but only after I promised to visit other departments to see how they operated."

Groth said he was told which two departments to check out and that one of the departments was in the hometown of one of the board members.

"I went in and asked to see the chief," he said. "I was told they didn't let the chief in, that he stayed in his office across the street.

"You can find dissention anywhere you go. But I didn't find one department as efficient and as content with what they were doing. I had a real wonderful department, some tremendous employees behind me that went out of their way to back me."

In the same paper a fight was brewing between Harry Reid and Paul Laxalt.

The 1974 election a month before placed Laxalt in the Senate seat, barely.

Laxalt won by a margin of 611 votes. The small margin caused recounts across the state.

On Dec. 6, 1974 ,the Appeal reported that Douglas County had doublechecked its count by hand. The end resulted in Laxalt gaining one vote and Reid losing one.

Ballots were recounted across the state between Dec. 3 and 7. From Minden the paper reported: A six hour hand recount of ballots in Douglas County Wednesday gained one vote for Paul Laxalt and lost one for challenger Harry Reid in the U.S. Senate race.

The Douglas County hand count was not court ordered, however, because after a lengthy hearing District Judge Noel Manoukian ruled that he could find no statutes where the county clerk is mandatorily ordered to conduct a hand count.

But County Clerk Earnhart Thran had announced Wednesday morning that he would conduct the recount by hand and that the recount would begin at 3 p.m.

His announcement was made at least an hour before Judge Manoukian was to hear arguments on Reid's lawsuit demanding the hand count of ballots.

Judge Manoukian said "there are no statutes defining the manner of recount when voting machines were initially used" (as they were in Douglas County.)

Judge Manoukian said, "In the absence of express statutes governing whether the hand count or a second computer count is mandatory, the court could not order the county clerk in which manner to proceed."

The judge concluded that the court could not interfere because the office of clerk combines both executive and legislative authority, allowing the clerk to make his own decision on the manner of such a recount.

The Douglas County hand recount gave Laxalt 2,745 votes, one more than in the general election. Reid, in the recount, tallied 1,331, or one less than in the general.

This was to be the first of Reid's recounts and was the second for Laxalt.

Ballots for Reid were recounted again in 1998, though this time he would be the winner.

The statewide race for U.S. Senate between Reid and Congressman John Ensign, R-Nev., in 1998 was decided by 459 votes.

In 1964, a defeated Paul Laxalt demanded a recount when he failed to unseat U.S. Sen. Howard Canon. The first count stood and Canon remained in office.


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