18 years ago, long before I became White Pine County District Attorney, I moved to Ely as a recent law school graduate. The people I worked with treated each other with courtesy and respect, including those on different sides of the issues. People worked hard, together, to benefit the community. While I believe this sense of community, and the sense to treat each other with courtesy and respect, is still true for many of us, in all my years of public service I have never experienced the divisiveness that is present today.
I have always expected campaigns for elected office to be hard fought and focus on what experience a candidate brings to hold office. But now, while I acknowledge that lies have been told about me in the past and I ignored them because they did not deserve a response, it has gotten to the point where I feel I must respond. The lies are now also directed at my family, and I have to respond. I will not discuss the character of my opponent Mike Wheable, or the character of Jamie Bedwell, the author of a recent letter to the editor, but to note that Ms. Bedwell has not lived in this community for some time, and I question her motivation. I have the following response to her letter.
My work experience includes 35 years of progressively more demanding decision making and management experience, not rookie experience as Ms. Bedwell claims. While I was completing my MBA, I worked at Wackenhut Services as a Junior Accountant. I worked my way up to Accounting Manager. After completing law school I started as a State Deputy Public Defender, and in just four years became the Supervising Deputy for the Ely Regional Office. I have been successful and progressed in every job I have had. For ten years I supervised the Ely Regional Office of the State Public Defender. I supervised the attorneys and staff and defended thousands of cases from barking dogs to murder. I participated in 38 jury trials that were tried to a verdict. I then became a Eureka County Deputy District Attorney in 2010, where I not only prosecuted a variety of criminal cases, but also advised and attended the meetings of various boards including the Board of County Commissioners.
I graduated from the same law school as my opponent Mr. Wheable; there students have the opportunity to work in a prosecutor’s office under the direct supervision of a lawyer and “prosecute” cases. For example, I prosecuted cases for the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office during my time as a law student. Ms. Bedwell claims my opponent prosecuted cases for Sacramento County and the US Attorney’s Office. At that time he was not a lawyer; he was a student working under a lawyer. It is inappropriate to claim experience in a way that misleads the public about how extensive that experience really is.
To be clear, of the over 100 felony crimes Ms. Bedwell claims my opponent prosecuted as a lawyer, all but 6 (not 60 or 100, but 6) were settled and never went to trial. That description brings that claim of experience into the light. Despite that reality, the relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office is better than in past administrations due to my policies and the dedication of all the staff in the Office. Ask any Deputy Sheriff and I think they will tell you they work well with all of the attorneys and staff in the Office. The local law enforcement association has not endorsed either candidate.
Ms. Bedwell references a lawsuit filed by a former employee who resigned. Anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason, even if the allegations are false. The lawsuit relied upon by Bedwell falsely says that I convinced a Sheriff’s Deputy to batter the husband of the former employee because I was angry at the former employee for raising questions about the bad check diversion program run by the District Attorney’s Office to assist local businesses with bad or fraudulent checks. To be clear, I did not ask a law enforcement officer to batter anyone, the Deputy Sheriff did not batter anyone, I was not angry with the former employee for raising questions about the bad check diversion program, and I did not mismanage the account for this program. Instead, I requested an audit of the account, and after the results of the audit I requested a criminal investigation. 19 instances of suspicious transactions occurred before I took office. I was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Nevada Department of Public Safety Investigation Division. I took immediate action to correct the cash handling procedures which had been in place long before I took office in order to prevent additional problems with cash handling.
Ms. Bedwell also complains that I applied for the open judicial position when Judge Papez retired. I had spoken to Judge Papez prior to becoming District Attorney and he told me he was heading into his last term and I should consider applying for the position after he retired, so I did.
She claims I take too much time off. I represent White Pine County’s interests at meetings of the Nevada District Attorney’s Association, meetings of the Public Lawyers Section of the Nevada State Bar, and other organizations. I have taken a few long weekends, and during those weekends I conduct business by email and cell phone. In 2012, I had 6 days off from January to June, including holidays and weekends. My opponent Mr. Wheable has attended just 2 or 3 County Commission meetings at my request since he started working for the Office 2 years ago. I handle almost all of the civil issues, and usually prosecute the most serious criminal cases, while deputies prosecute the balance of the criminal cases.
Her claims that I failed to act in two of the most serious criminal cases, Ybarra and Collman, are false. As soon as I was notified of the petition before the United States Supreme Court in Ybarra, I opposed the petition. This required me to gain admission to that Court upon the recommendation of two other members of that Court’s bar that are familiar with my character and competency. I was recommended to the Court by Judge Papez, the only attorney in White Pine County who was a US Supreme Court Bar member, and by a Deputy Attorney General in Carson City who I had tried cases against in the past. In Collman the petition was filed in the year 2000, over a decade before I held the Office of White Pine County District Attorney. When I took office in 2011, supplemental briefs had not even been filed. I studied the thousands of pages of transcripts, police reports, technical reports and legal arguments. I filed supplemental briefings on 74 issues, represented the State during 6 days of hearings, filed post hearing briefs, and I am now working on the appeal before the Nevada Supreme Court. There was very little action in the case for the ten years before I took office. I have worked very hard on the case since taking office.
Most of what Ms. Bedwell claims perhaps falls into the category of lies and mudslinging that I would ignore and identify as not worthy of response. But she also claims I supervised my girlfriend (now wife) at the State Public Defender’s office. That is not true. While I did supervise the Office, we did not date until I became a Eureka County Deputy District Attorney. We had no relationship outside of work until after I left that office. When we started dating, I notified my boss and she notified hers. We also notified Judge Papez and Judge Dobrescu and asked for an opinion from the Ethics Commission. We got everyone’s approval. John L. Smith, a columnist writing for the Las Vegas Review Journal, suggested that attorneys in Las Vegas should follow our example of ethical behavior. The Ethics Commission Opinion indicates we began dating while we were both still employed at the Public Defender’s Office. That is not correct, but we did not ask to have the error corrected because it was several months later, and at the time we were married and didn’t consider it to still be an issue. And while we could have kept the Ethics Commission Opinion private, we authorized publishing it to be completely transparent.
My wife Melissa is a Deputy Attorney General fighting domestic violence in White Pine, Lincoln and Eureka counties. I had no part in her hiring. I did not participate in any job interviews. Melissa has an office in the White Pine County Courthouse because it is geographically between Lincoln and Eureka Counties, and most of the cases she prosecutes are here in White Pine County. This office arrangement was in place long before I took office. She is paid by the State of Nevada and reports to a supervisor who works for the State in Las Vegas, just like the other Deputy Attorney General in Ely. Recently, I was asked by her supervisor if I had any input into her performance evaluation, and I refused to provide any input because I am not her supervisor. I have never violated any anti-nepotism policy.
So there you have it. I believe our government only works well when the people demand from their representatives the very best, and nothing but the truth. I pledge to continue to provide nothing but the truth. There have been many challenges in the last four years, and my only consideration has been to do what I believe is right.
Kelly C. Brown,
White Pine County District Attorney
To the Editor:
It has now been over six weeks since the Ely City Council members took it upon themselves to climb up a ladder and into the second story window of the Nevada Northern Railway offices to access records during the one day each week that the Railway closes its offices.
Was this a break-in? Was this legal? There are conflicting opinions.
According to an article published in the newspaper, the sheriff’s department found no evidence that a crime had been committed, yet referred it to the district attorney’s office for consideration of criminal charges.
Many in our community, including myself, find it disconcerting that a group of people can take it upon themselves to climb into an office and take what they want without a search warrant. The fact that this occurred when the office was closed makes the whole incident even more questionable.
To date, our county district attorney’s office has issued no statement about the legality of this intrusion. Neither District Attorney Brown nor Deputy District Attorney Wheable, both of whom are currently running for the office of district attorney, has taken action on this matter.
Since neither of these men appears willing to take action in this matter, and given that there is a conflict of interest due to County Commissioner Mike Coster’s participation in this event, the reasonable next step is for one of them to request the Attorney General of Nevada to investigate this incident and decide if laws have been broken, poor precedents set, or if ethics violations may have occurred.
Mr. Brown and Mr. Wheable, this incident needs to have finality, not by ignoring that it happened, but by using the legal process to do what is necessary to resolve this matter for our community.
To the Voters of White Pine County,
The November election is approaching for White Pine County voters, who will have the option to select from two candidates running for White Pine County Sheriff. As many of you recall, I proudly served with the White Pine County Sheriff’s office for 23 years and was Sheriff from 1983 to 1988. Since retiring, I have continued working in the public sector and have the opportunity to maintain a strong rapport with many of the citizens, so I feel I can offer first hand insight to the voters with regard to who is the best qualified candidate for Sheriff. Dan Watts, a 27 year veteran of the White Pine County Sheriff’s Office, is clearly the most qualified.
The Office of Sheriff is an important position and requires a facet of skills to effectively serve as the “chief” law enforcement in White Pine County. It’s simply not enough to just want to “be” Sheriff; the Sheriff must have the education, experience and vision to lead the largest independently elected office in White Pine County. Dan is a definite leader in all three of these areas. He is the only candidate who has credentials in criminal justice. He understands the value of continuing education and training and will ensure the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office receive the best training available. Dan also maintains experience in the business aspect of the Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff must understand and have the know-how necessary to perform the administrative duties and functions beyond law enforcement responsibilities. Again, Dan is the only candidate possessing these vital administrative ingenuities.
Dan’s 27 year career at the Sheriff’s Office sets him in the lead position over his opponent. The Sheriff’s Office is comprised of over 33 employees working in bureaus that include public safety, emergency dispatch, corrections, coroner services and court security. Dan has worked in the public safety, coroner and corrections division, and is fully trained in court security. We often think of the Sheriff’s Office as strictly being for law enforcement purposes only, however, the Sheriff must have a much broader comprehensive public safety perspective. Dan is committed to ensuring that our citizens receive the highest level of services across all of these bureaus. In particular, Dan’s appointment as a Commissioner for Nevada’s Peace Officers’ Standard and Training is heavily centered around legislation, providing the necessary knowledge required to effectively provide law enforcement in our community He also has vital experience in obtaining, implementing and managing grant funded programs. Clearly, Dan is the only candidate that possesses administrative experience, which is an irreplaceable asset for the budgeting dilemmas our county is continually challenged by. Additionally, Dan networks with numerous Sheriffs and Chiefs not only within Nevada, but throughout the nation. These professional connections provide unlimited law enforcement resources to our community.
Oftentimes, candidates for political office campaign on the all too familiar rant regarding the need for “change” and suggest that things are broken and need to be fixed. Along those lines, what usually accompanies that rhetoric is the predictable pandering to the voting population who the candidates believe will help them get elected. What gets lost in all of this political posturing is what matters most – providing high quality public safety services to the citizens of White Pine County. One of the most significant ways to damage or reduce a high level of public service is by making overwhelming changes to the personnel formation of the department shortly after assuming office. This typically consists of multiple promotions and/or reassignments. Oftentimes, these changes are made because they can be made, not because they should be made. This “revamping” of the department’s structure reduces the knowledge and experience that exists with the personnel’s key positions within the agency. The knowledge and experience that took years to develop can be eliminated overnight. It is imperative that the voters not be misled by the unnecessary suggestion of the need for change. A substantial transformation within the department would be a serious detriment. Dan believes in accountability across the board in all areas of operations and has the experience to lead the Sheriff’s Office forward with up-to-date programs, technology, equipment and ideas, which include cost saving measures for our tax payers, while continuing to build upon the current successes and competencies which exist with current personnel that has taken years to develop.
As many of you know, Dan is also my son-in-law. However, I personally hired Dan as deputy in 1987, prior to him becoming a part of our family. Not only are my wife, Patty, and I incredibly proud of how Dan has contributed to the loving foundation of our family for the past 25 years, but also how he and our daughter, Shellie, have raised 4 of our 10 grandchildren. Since moving to Ely, Dan has been fully devoted to the community that we are proud to call home. I also feel compelled to acknowledge that throughout his entire law enforcement career he has continually strived to uphold the utmost professionalism and integrity within all capacities he has maintained at White Pine County Sheriff’s office, but especially as our elected Sheriff.
Again, I encourage you to carefully evaluate the Sheriff candidates in terms of education, experience, and vision for the future of our county’s law enforcement. I believe that careful consideration of each candidate will result in the conclusion that Dan Watts is the most qualified hopeful and deserves your continued support and vote.
Robert “Buddy” Sampson,
Retired White Pine County Sheriff