Bonkowski settles ethics complaint
June 19, 2017
Carson City Supervisor Brad Bonkowski has agreed to pay a $2,500 fine in a settlement of an ethics complaint.
The Nevada Commission on Ethics met Monday and voted to approve a proposed stipulated agreement that found Bonkowski committed a single violation of state ethics law when he did not disclose a conflict of interest and abstain from a Board of Supervisors vote last summer.
The board vote on July 7, 2016, approved an amendment to an agreement between Carson City and the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). The amendment outlined the details of the upcoming transfer of South Carson Street that had been agreed upon in 2004, before Bonkowski was a supervisor.
At the time of the vote, Bonkowski, through Gregg Street Partners LLC, held a 25 percent stake in 4385 S. Carson Street, along the stretch of road being transferred from NDOT to the city.
Gregg Street Partners also leased a right of way adjacent to the property, which had been the focus of years-long negotiations with NDOT.
The dispute concerned gas tanks buried underneath the right of way that were installed by William Schneider, the previous owner of the parcel.
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Gregg Street Partners bought 4385 S. Carson St. in 2005 from Schneider for $800,000, put $160,000 in a new facade, according to Bonkowski, and sold it to Red Hut Shopping Centers LLC on Nov. 21, 2016, for $895,000, at a loss of $65,000. The sale was in escrow when the vote took place, Bonkowski said.
The amendment voted on by the supervisors agreed to take the right of way and not hold NDOT responsible for any costs or liability associated with removing the tanks or cleaning up any possible hazardous waste at the site.
According to the stipulated agreement, Bonkowski could have made a disclosure and voted if not for the tanks.
"If the Amendment had not addressed the (underground storage tanks), Bonkowski would not have been required to abstain if he had properly disclosed the nature and scope of his private business and property interests related to the Amendment," reads the draft stipulation.
Bonkowski disputes that Gregg Street Partners ever owned the tanks.
"We agreed to a negotiated deal with NDOT and (Nevada Department of Environmental Protection) to take on certain tasks to get a lease done for the parking stalls. At no time have we ever admitted or accepted any responsibility for the tanks themselves and we have never had a leasehold or ownership interest in that land or the tanks," Bonkowski said after the meeting. "That is a matter to be resolved by the courts and not by NDOT, not by NDEP, and not by us. If this matter were to be litigated there would be other parties involved that I feel would hold the responsibility for removing the tanks and further remediation, if there is any responsibility at all, which I do not believe."
Jason Woodbury, Carson City District Attorney, soon after the vote last July, told the Nevada Appeal that while the amendment held NDOT harmless it did not preclude the city from going after third parties to recover the costs of tank removal or cleanup.
The complaint was filed with the commission on Nov. 7, 2016, by Jerry Vaccaro, a local businessman. The complaint alleged eight violations. After an investigation of the complaint, a two-member commission panel determined in April there was evidence pertaining to four sections of Nevada ethics law and sufficient cause for the case to be heard by the eight-member commission. As part of the stipulation two other concerns were dropped.