Nevada high court upholds vote to disband Pahrump town board

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld a 2012 decision by the Nye County Commission to call for a vote in Pahrump to discontinue the town board form of government.

Town officials had challenged the commission’s decision, but the vote went ahead and Pahrump voters in November 2012 narrowly approved the proposal 7,294 to 7,063.

In an order dated May 8, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a ruling by Fifth District Judge Robert Lane that allowed the ballot question to go forward.

Pahrump Town Board Chairman Harley Kulkin said the court decision means that the town of about 40,000 people will now be totally run by the county commission from the county seat of Tonopah 165 miles away.

The five elected town board members will see their positions eliminated at end of this year, he said.

“I’m not pleased with the ruling,” he said. “It is not in the best interests of the young people’s future here. I’m working with some people now to move forward with incorporation.”

Pahrump argued in its appeal that state law required the commission to find that the town board form of government was not in the best interests of Pahrump, while the county said state law only required that the decision be based on such a rationale but that no fact finding was required.

In its order, the court acknowledged that the state law is ambiguous.

It says that if a county commission determines that “the best interests of the town are no longer served by a town board form of government, it may order the question to be put on the ballot at the next general election.”

But the court said that a comparison of the state statute to others suggests that “if the Legislature intended to require some formal recitation of the best interests determination, it would have done so explicitly.”

The statute in dispute “merely requires a determination and never mentions a resolution, ordinance, or other formal or express statement of this determination, suggesting that no formal or express determination is required,” the court said.

The county commission vote only allowed voters to make the final decision, the court said.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.