The Railroad Management Board for the Nevada Northern Railway passed a motion to start drafting a lawsuit against the Ely City Council and Railroad Board of Trustees in their meeting on Aug. 15. The management board’s lawyer Scott Husbands said that he could not release any details about the lawsuit, such as what the board is suing for or when it will be filed, other than his law firm is teaming up with the Goicoechea, DiGrazia, Coyle and Stanton law firm based in Elko.
The lawsuit comes just one week after the city council voted 3-0 to remove John Gianoli and Steven Leith from the Railroad Management Board based on questions that have remained unanswered by the board’s former chairman and vice-chairman. The remaining three members of the board also voted to elect Randy Larson as the new Chairman of the Board and Roger Bowers as the Vice Chairman.
“It is a dark path that we have embarked upon today, but one that I feel is necessary,” Larson said of the vote to draft the lawsuit.
The 9 a.m. meeting at the railroad drew a standing-room-only crowd, looking to see how the board would respond in the escalating feud between them and the city council. Though the events of the past two weeks have seen both entities take their most drastic courses of action, the conflict between the two started back in December of 2013. After the annual audit of the railroad’s books came back with some “red flags,” as City Councilman Bruce Setterstrom called them, the council, which also operates as the Board of Trustees for the railroad, began to ask questions.
The digging began a rumor that the council was out to shut down the railroad. Though the councilmen have repeatedly refuted the idea, some members of the community still feel that the shutdown of the railroad is the ultimate endgame for the council.
“It is hard to sue the government, but sometimes you have to,” White Pine County Clerk Lin Burleigh said in the public comment section at the end of the management board’s meeting.
In early March, the City Council voted to create an “ad-hoc committee” that would join members from the council and the management board together to resolve any issues between the two. After the representatives from the council did not attend the last meeting of the “ad-hoc” committee, Mayor Melody Van Camp disbanded the committee, a decision that did not sit well with new Vice-Chairman Bowers.
“I felt like we were only one or two meetings away from getting everything resolved,” he said during a discussion about how to proceed with the lawsuit.
Despite the concerns brought about in the audit, Mark Bassett presented the railroad’s most up to date financials in the meeting, showing significant signs of growth over the previous year in both funds raised and volunteer hours. an op-ed for The Ely Times about forming one government in White Pine County. This would involve combining the county and city governments.
Past events and more recent decisions have prompted me to ask the residents of Ely to take another look at possible consolidation. As reported before a ballot referendum in 2010, the vote to combine was positive in favor of forming one government.
The past two city council meetings have seen the resignation of the City Treasurer and the removal of the two.