Fact Finder: Former Storey County Official Has Lucrative Deal With School District

Reported by: Joe Hart
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Updated: 4/09/2013 12:18 pm
STOREY COUNTY, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) - There's growing concern in Storey County these days about a contract between the Storey County School District, and now former county commissioner Greg "Bum" Hess.  It's a deal that's paid Hess  $1.1 million since 2008 to oversee school construction projects like the installation of  solar panels.

Hess earns five percent of every project to oversee the construction, and  $75 an hour when he does the construction himself.

Storey county resident Dale Beach is among those who are questioning whether a top county official should have been put on the school district payroll in the first place.

"I'm concerned that it's inside trading and it's probably not legal.   If it is legal, it shouldn't be," Beach told News 4.

Beach says he's concerned that Hess, who served as county commissioner from 1999 up until last year, used his influence as commissioner to get hired by the school district.   And he's concerned about the amount of money the school district is paying Hess.  More than $411,000 in 2010 alone, according to figures provided by the Storey County School District.

The head of the Storey County School Board, Cathylee James, would not comment on the deal when we asked her about it, and no one answered when we knocked on her door in Virginia City.  

Storey County Superintendent Rob Slaby said he was told by the District Attorney not to talk about the deal.

So we asked the District Attorney himself, Bill Maddox, if this is a so-called "sweetheart deal" for Bum Hess?  "You know without knowing the work that he did I don't know," Maddox told us. "I think the school district is happy with the work that he does and the price that they have to pay to get it done."

Maddox says there's nothing illegal about the arrangement because the school district is a seperate government entity from the county.

"Was it illegal? No. That's how I'll respond to that question.  Was it inappropriate?  I guess that's in the eye of the beholder." Maddox said.

The Storey County School District did advertise the position back in 2008, and the item did appear on this school board agenda on May 21 of 2008.   The county says Bum Hess was the only one who applied for the position back then.  Something Dale Beach says he's surprised to hear.

"That's possible but for a $1.1 million, why?  What's not to like about taking a bite out of that?" asked Beach.

And that amount may be the the highest in the state.  Our research shows that while most other school districts also pay someone to oversee school construction. The range statewide runs from 1.5 percent of each project in Elko up to 4.4 percent in Clark County.   No other districts pay out 5%, like Storey County does.

And, since 2008 the district superintendent has renewed the deal with Bum Hess each year, by simply signing on the dotted line as the contracts show.  So the school district continues to employ Hess but the school board does not get a vote on whether the contract is renewed each year.

That has residents wondering if this arrangement with a top former county official is a good deal for them?

"Every decision they make should get value for me as a  taxpayer.  It shouldn't be on who it is and who it ain't," said Beach.

News 4 did talk to Bum Hess on the phone. He says its important to keep in mind he has a full crew that he has to pay so he says he is not pocketing all of the money the school district is paying him for those construction projects.

Hess is due in court on April 9th for a preliminary hearing on a battery charge.  District Attorney Bill Maddox says if Hess is convicted, the county will decide at that time whether to fire him or keep him on the payroll.
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tonysam - 5/1/2013 4:19 PM
0 Votes
This link to WCSD's administrative needs list won't be up for long, but people should know that the Lemmon Valley principal who was put on administrative leave will NOT be returning to that school and probably not any other school in the district. Her job is up for bid for transfer in the district. My guess is either she was fired (doubtful), resigned in lieu of a dismissal, demoted, or else will get a make-work job in the central office. Note all of the make-work jobs that are there for failed administrators. Link: https://jobs.washoe.k12.nv.us/ats/job_board_frame?COMPANY_ID=00004845&APPLICANT_TYPE_ID=00000003&POSTING_TYPE_ID=00000002

tonysam - 4/12/2013 10:41 AM
0 Votes
Okay, everybody, here is the latest direct from the KRNV staff: "Ben left for a job that paid him much more money than we could. I have very happy for Ben, but disappointed for us. This story is by no means dead. I think you will be very happy with the story we are working on right now." Stay tuned, everybody, for further information.

tonysam - 4/12/2013 9:32 AM
0 Votes
I have just written KRNV to ask them if they plan on any kind of followup on the LVES principal story. We will see if there is any response from them. WCSD is more secretive than the CIA, and I would not be surprised if the television station was told to back off.

tonysam - 4/9/2013 9:08 PM
1 Vote
Email from March 23 from a staff member at KRNV: "Thank you for writing. We have the court documents and will be reporting on them next week. I believe one of the biggest reasons for the district's silence is the laws that you mentioned. The problem is that when pressed to specifically site [sic] the laws, they can't. That is because these laws do not exist. The school district has only sited [sic] two court cases to us for justification of their actions, in both of those cases the governmental agency lost and was forced to turn over all documents requested. The actions of Kara White are important, but the secrecy of the WCSD is even more important than the actions of a single person."---So far, three weeks later, nothing but silence. Ten cents says there will be NO follow-up to the story, and ten cents says this principal will be brought back to the district in a make-work desk job in the central office and never be heard from again. I can't imagine she took a severance deal or was fired outright. The district just doesn't get rid of administrators they should get rid of.

tonysam - 4/9/2013 8:53 PM
0 Votes
The email the KRNV staff member sent me was dated March 23. It has been something like three weeks since that email which promised there would be a follow-up story on the WCSD principal story. Ten cents says they got gun shy, and you will never hear about it. Ten cents also says that this principal will return in a make-work job in the central office and never be heard from again.

retired51 - 4/9/2013 5:53 PM
1 Vote
Do not give more money to these school districts because they don't feel they have to answer to anybody!! Storey County is extremely corrupt!!!

tonysam - 4/9/2013 12:26 PM
0 Votes
Court case I am referring to, which is public record: http://dockets.justia.com/docket/nevada/nvdce/3:2011cv00723/83792/ No doubt the principal was sanctioned over this misconduct.

tonysam - 4/9/2013 12:21 PM
0 Votes
Yep...They backed off of that Lemmon Valley principal "scandal" because they got hold of the court documents and must have called the district, which in turn must have told them to back off. I was told by a staff at KRNV they were going to have a follow-up on the LVES principal situation "next week"--and that was almost THREE WEEKS AGO.

vietnamvet25 - 4/9/2013 10:55 AM
0 Votes
I know that we no longer have a really good investigative reporter on news 4 he was digging into the suspension of a WCSD principal from north valley then he vanished over night with no mention of his departure on the air or on the web site. Did he get to close to the truth????? Where did he go?

macias1130 - 4/8/2013 10:02 PM
0 Votes
Adding........... the battery charge is unfounded.. Provoked and defends himself, this should be thrown out immediately.. With 100's of witnesses..
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