Youth drug treatment center boss fired for DUI
Before he hired his first employee, Steve Mathews was fired Thursday as the first administrator of the yet-to-open youth drug treatment and detention center in Silver Springs.
A three-judge oversight board fired Mathews following his Nov. 22 arrest on driving under the influence. Mathews pleaded guilty to the charges Dec. 23 at Dayton Justice Court.
Mathews started on the job Oct. 4.
He was not present Thursday for the brief meeting by the five-county Western Nevada Regional Youth Center’s oversight board, made up of Third District Court Judge Archie Blake, First District Court Judge Michael Griffin and Ninth District Court Judge David Gamble.
“I think it’s important for the administrator to be a person who is above reproach,” Gamble said.
The three judges followed a unanimous recommendation from the center’s operations committee to fire Mathews. The committee, consisting of county and city managers and chief juvenile probation officers, put Mathews on administrative leave with pay Dec. 14.
“If it’s a unanimous recommendation, we should follow it,” Griffin said.
Laurel Stadler, director of the Lyon County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, lauded the judges’ decision.
“I’m very pleased with the action the board took,” Stadler said. “I think it’s appropriate to hold public officials accountable for their behavior on the job and off.”
Mathews was pulled over about 12:15 a.m. Nov. 22 on Highway 95A near Ninth Street at the southern end of Silver Springs after he was seen driving on the wrong side of the street. Operations committee chairman Steve Snyder said Mathews’ blood alcohol level was .17 and .18 in two readings. Legally drunk is .10 in Nevada.
Mathews was an at-will employee whose firing does not involve any contract buyouts, Snyder said.
“It’s unfortunate for the program, but to maintain the credibility of the program it was probably the only decision that could be made,” said Snyder, who is also Lyon County manager.
Mathews’ termination will delay the opening of the 29-bed youth center that will serve Carson City, Lyon, Douglas, Churchill and Storey counties. The center was expected to start housing convicted youths in February, but Snyder believes the center won’t open until March or April.
The $1.25 million youth center is the state’s first multi jurisdictional treatment center. The facility’s primary function is to treat youth with drug and alcohol problems. There will be two detention cells for use primarily by Churchill and Lyon counties, which have no youth detention facilities.
Youth will sleep in unlocked rooms and there will be no law enforcement officers or firearms at the center.
Snyder proposed finding a new administrator from the list of seven finalists from which Mathews was selected. Blake and the other judges want the hiring process to start from the beginning with a job advertisement.
Blake suggested hiring an interim administrator soon to lose as little time as possible in opening the center. He was thinking of a former juvenile probation officer whom he did not name.
“We don’t want to rush on the main hire (of an administrator),” Blake said.
Snyder said the operations committee is scheduled to meet Jan. 10 and possibly appoint an interim administrator that day.