Guinn calls for major shift in Public Works | NevadaAppeal.com

Guinn calls for major shift in Public Works

The Public Works Board should be dominated by elected officials, not appointed members of the building industry, said Gov. Kenny Guinn.

Under the state law, the board and its manager don’t report to the Governor’s Office, and the governor has no say in who is appointed manager.

Guinn said Friday he will call on the next governor to back a plan creating a new Public Works Board modeled after the Department of Transportation Board.

“The state has grown beyond this kind of mechanism,” Guinn said, referring to the current board composed of appointees primarily representing the industry.

“They meet what? – once every month or two? But they’re managing $500-, $600 million worth of construction at any one time.”

The comments came in the wake of an arbitrator’s decision that placed 100 percent of the blame for problems in the design and construction of the Southern Nevada Veterans Home on the board and the state-hired architects who designed the project. The state was ordered to pay the contractor $10.3 million in damages.

Arbitrators said the design problems and construction delays were the fault of incomplete plans and poor management by the state.

Guinn said, without criticizing the motives of the current board, members are business people who simply don’t have the time to devote to managing the state’s construction program. And, he said philosophically, the responsibility should be in the hands of officials elected by and responsible to the public.

“This is just too important to put in the hands of independent people,” he said.

Guinn said using the transportation board model, he would recommend putting constitutional officers, including the governor and attorney general, on the board.

But under the present system, he said the only power the governor has is to appoint the members of the board. As for the manager, he said he has no say in who the board selects, and that his only authority is to ask for the individual’s resignation.

Guinn did just that Thursday after the arbitration report was released, asking for and receiving Dan O’Brien’s resignation.

Guinn said he had a bill during the 2005 Legislature which would have revamped the works board, changing membership to include elected officials plus a few members of the general public. It failed to pass.

In 2007, he said, he hopes the new governor and lawmakers – with the Veterans Home case before them – will back a new version of that proposal.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.