Critic says V&T Commission violated open meeting law
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
A critic of the state commission running the V&T Railway project accused the commission of violating the opening meeting law Monday when the chairman of the commission prevented him from commenting on an agenda item.
Jim Lohse said the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway violated the law when Chairman Bob Hadfield told Lohse he could not respond to criticisms spoken during an agenda item by Janice Ayres, who is head of a group raising money for the commission, the Northern Nevada Railway Foundation.
“I am not taking public comment on this item,” Hadfield told Lohse, who asked the commission if he could comment.
No member of the commission objected to Hadfield’s decision.
Lohse asked the audience at the meeting in the Sierra Room of the Carson City Community Center after that if they had heard what Hadfield said. He then briefly argued with Ayres and left the room.
After the meeting, Lohse said commissioners have to allow public comment after agenda items because they do not allow public comment on agenda items during the comment period at the beginning of the meeting.
The Nevada Attorney General’s office, which handles open meeting law violations, could not be reached after business hours when the meeting ended Monday, but a guide to open meeting law under Nevada Revised Statute 241 is posted on its Web site.
“The OML (open meeting law) requires that a period during the meeting be designated for public comment,” the Web site says. “The public comment period should not be restricted to speaking on non-agenda items unless the public is permitted to speak on agenda items as they are heard.”
Lohse said he plans to talk with the attorney general’s office about what he says is a violation of the law.
But Hadfield said after the meeting he did not violate the law and was simply trying to prevent an argument that would have disrupted the meeting.
“I’ve been on the Minden town board for 22 years and we’ve never had any public comment on a staff report,” he said.
Ayres’ agenda item titled the “Northern Nevada Railway Foundation report” should be listed as an information-only agenda item on all future agendas so people will know they don’t have a right to comment on it, he said during the meeting.
Hadfield and some other members of the commission in charge of building an 18-mile tourist railroad from Virginia City to Carson City are listed in the “Rogue’s Gallery” section of Lohse’s Web site, which criticizes the commission and says Hadfield is “captain of the ship responsible for all the commission’s foibles and failures.”
– Contact reporter Dave Frank at email@example.com or 881-1212.