Gardnerville water board member quits in dispute with manager

After 22 years at the Gardnerville Water Co., board member Dale Bohlman has resigned after his wife lost her job with the company.

"I do not wish to continue butting heads with the manager, and even though the things I personally see that are wrong, or need to be done, I fear repercussions on my wife and really struggle not saying anything that I should," Bohlman wrote in a letter handed to the board in early February.

Bohlman's wife of two years, Karen, worked at the main office of the water company for nearly eight years. In December, she received a favorable employment review.

A few days after her husband resigned, Karen Bohlman said, she was fired with no severance pay, no notice and no continuing medical coverage.

Since last year, she has battled breast cancer. Although she was taking radiation treatments, she said her illness never affected her job. The cancer is gone now, but so is her job.

"I cried for a week," she said. "I love that company."

Manager Mark Gonzales said he can't discuss personnel issues, but said "it was a mutual agreement that she left."

Karen Bohlman denies that.

"I was fired, blatantly fired," she said.

Dale Bohlman, a third-generation Carson Valley resident who started as a volunteer with the water company in 1980, was later appointed to the paid position on the board and served as its chairman for many years.

He had two years left on his term, but said there were too many things that he didn't see as good business practices. He said he would have left peacefully and signed a confidentiality statement if the water company would have at least offered his wife a severance package. But now he is speaking out about alleged improprieties at the water company -- which has started unraveling since Gonzales took the helm, he claims.

Gonzales, a former engineer for the water company, was hired in May after the former manager, Larry Clendenen, was fired.

"I pushed hard for Mark to get the job," Bohlman said.

Bohlman charges Gonzales was making unauthorized purchases exceeding the $500 cap the board allowed him -- a charge Gonzales denies.

"I don't expend over $500 without board approval," Gonzales said.

Bohlman also takes issue with the fact the water company does not have a required Class 3 certified employee on staff. He said the state health department had been working with the company to get an employee certified, but it hasn't been accomplished yet.

"That was why the other manager was fired last year," Bohlman said.

Because of the population increases in the service area, Bohlman said the state requires a Class 3 certification for an employee who understands bigger water systems.

Bohlman said the water company "will make it with or without me," but he is angry about the way his wife has been treated.

"We can't retaliate," he said. "Nevada is a right-to-work state, but I don't think she was legally fired.

"I think the board would have got together and done the right thing."

Interim Chairman Dennis Wills and board member Arlen Neal did not return calls.


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