Apology time

First an ancient history lesson: On May 12, 2005, the RN&R ran a story called, “Does Washoe County have a vendetta against this man?” The story detailed the battles of the Washoe County Board of Commissioners against Gary Schmidt, an appointed member of the Washoe County Board of Equalization.

The crux of the story focused on this paragraph: “As the Washoe County Board of Commissioners prepares to meet on May 17 to decide ‘Possible action, including but not limited to, censure, suspension, removal, or no action of Board of Equalization member Gary Schmidt for malfeasance [unlawful behavior] in office or neglect of duty pursuant to NRS 361.340(7),’ the question arises, who’d this guy piss off?”

Sure enough, Washoe County Commissioners, led by Bonnie Weber, voted to censure Schmidt, despite the objections of two members of the Board. And, as predicted (is it still a prediction when the outcome is as fated as “the sun is going to rise tomorrow” or “Gary Schmidt will sue those who he perceives wronged him"?), Schmidt took the country to court.

So anyway, Friday, Feb. 9, Judge Brent Adams found that the county commissioners did indeed act outside of their authority by publicly dragging Schmidt’s name through the mud and enacting their bogus censure. According to Schmidt, Judge Adams vacated the censure, although there are still legal i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed.

Now, Schmidt is going to submit his lawyer’s fees to the county, and we’ll all get to pay a little bit for the County Commissioners’ arrogant and malicious attacks on a citizen, who, less than a year before, had been given a written commendation for the very service for which the board later “censured” him.

This newspaper, at the time, said that the Commissioners’ actions could tend to discourage citizens’ participation in government because it set the precedent that an election and a change in agenda could put any citizen in the crosshairs of politicians with axes to grind. There’s been nothing to change our views on this issue.

So now we wonder just exactly what the County Commission will do to make amends to this dedicated citizen who they so wrongfully, and possibly illegally, held up to public ridicule. It would take a pretty large stretch of the imagination to figure out a way that the county is not liable for Schmidt’s lawyer’s fees. (Apparently, that figure is more than $30,000.)

At a minimum, when somebody maligns somebody else’s character, an apology is in order. The commissioners’ apology should be put on the agenda for multiple weeks, just as the hearing on Schmidt’s competency and malfeasance were agendized for multiple weeks. And those commissioners—Bonnie Weber, David Humke and Bob Larkin—who voted to censure Schmidt “with training” should say what they did wrong, humbly beg Schmidt’s pardon and ask for forgiveness—and maybe accept some humility training.

Because if a group of politicians is told by a court of law that they did wrong, and they continue to flout the law by refusing to admit their indiscretion, it suggests they went beyond simple incompetence and acted with malice.

None of us taxpayers want to pay the court fees for a group that used its authority to exact retribution against a citizen who was only doing his duty.