Last Monday's Ballardini Ranch debacle is now officially installed in the Barbwire Rogues Gallery of Bad Government Boondoggles.
|Letters to the Editor
I told Washoe County commissioners that the proposed settlement ranked with Honey Lake
water importation and the giveaway of Washoe Medical Center among the biggest mistakes
county government ever made.
Alas, with only stalwart Commissioner Pete Sferrazza dissenting, your elected
representatives gave the Minnesota developers everything they wanted with a cherry on top
and not even a kiss afterward (although Commission Chair Bob Larkin and
county-retained lawyer Mike Chapman were greeted with handshakes, shoulder pats and
everything but high fives from developer representatives after doing the deed).
How bad was it?
They approved a six-page "statement of settlement" which curiously included additional items not agreed upon in negotiation, according to Mr. Sferrazza.
Chairman Larkin consistently tried to silence Sferrazza and prevent him from getting
answers to his questions. Larkin's performance was both glaring and embarrassing.
I have requested a copy of the final agreement when the developer's lawyers have finished rewriting it. I have also asked if the public will get a chance to review it before it's signed.
I'm not hopeful.
I reminded commissioners that post-approval drafting resulted in a hemorrhage of millions when the 1985 commission gave away Washoe Medical Center. The Washoe County Grand Jury later found that now-Judge Ed Dannan, then a deputy D.A., had removed the reason for the privatization from the contract.
The new owners had promised to pay for the medical care of those unable to afford it in
exchange for a free hospital. The county would be permanently off the hook. Dannan removed
it from the contract. (Barbwire
In just the past five years, Washoe County taxpayers have given Washoe Med more than $35.5 million for indigent care. That's almost exactly the amount of debt commissioners approved to pay for the Ballardini Ranch.
The commission debate even produced a second new entry into the Rogues Gallery. Sferrazza noted a recent turnover of county owned land to the Mt. Rose ski resort. Forty acres of prime property, potentially worth hundreds of millions, was deeded over to private interests for just $200,000.
Again, more than enough was squandered to pay even the highest appraisal for the
Had Commissioner Jim Galloway not lost his nerve, Commissioner Dave Humke might have been emboldened to stay the course and let a jury decide the value. Humke faces a tough primary against Elisa Maser, daughter of former state treasurer Patty Cafferata and granddaughter of former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev.
Alas and alack, it all boiled down to a case of Reno good ole boy juice politics.
Powerful developers called and gave orders to back off. Major law firms sent out the
word "you're gonna lose, so settle."
Larkin, Humke and Galloway, all highly educated men with passive personalities, were up against surly lawyers hired to implement a scorched earth strategy The battlebots won, even carrying uberconservative Commissioner Bonnie Weber, who originally wanted to give the developers nothing.
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