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Controversial sheriff lost election, opponent says voters ‘were due for a change’

Updated November 17, 2022 - 1:10 pm

Nye County will get a new sheriff after controversial incumbent Sharon Wehrly was defeated by nearly a two-to-one margin, unofficial election results show.

Her loss comes after the Review-Journal exposed a series of questionable actions and department failures during her seven-year tenure.

Nye Sheriff’s Deputy Joe McGill received 12,605 votes and Wehrly 7,032 in last week’s election, according to the results released late Tuesday. McGill said Wehrly hasn’t conceded, but he thanked the voters and his supporters.

“I think that the Nye County voters decided they were due for a change and my goal is to provide a positive change for them,” McGill said in a statement.

McGill, 57, retired as a detective from Metro after 26 years where he worked patrol, the problem-solving unit and narcotics, along with what’s known as the VIPER Auto Theft Task Force.

Wehrly emailed and texted the Review-Journal last week saying she will provide comment after the votes are counted but did not respond to interview requests Wednesday.

“I’ll be more than happy to give you a statement after everything is said and done,” she wrote Nov. 10.

Wehrly has been the center of repeated controversies since she took office in 2015, including conflicts of interest and failures to protect the public.

Investigations have revealed concerns about the actions of Nye Sheriff’s Capt. David Boruchowitz, who is close to Wehrly. Questions have been raised about his ethics and abuse of power as a deputy, but Wehrly repeatedly promoted him.

The sheriff’s department also faced scrutiny for failures by deputies to stop a driver they knew was impaired an hour before he killed three people in a head-on crash in March 2021.

McGill, a former Metro police officer and a deputy in Nye since 2018, said he plans to make personnel changes and determine what is happening with an FBI investigation into misconduct in the department. The FBI raided the office in August, and sources say agents are investigating issues revealed in Review-Journal stories.

He declined to provide details of the personnel changes until he can notify the individuals. He said he expects Boruchowitz to remain with the department but his role will change.

“He is no longer running (it) like he has been the last several years,” McGill said. “The new undersheriff and new sheriff will run it. It’s going to be a team effort.”

Bill Becht, who retired from Nye as captain a decade ago, will be undersheriff if McGill holds on to the victory.

Controversial tenure

A February Review-Journal story detailed how Wehrly repeatedly promoted Boruchowitz despite his history of inappropriate behavior, which included holding “porn matinees” in the office, having relationships with parolees and filing unsubstantiated charges against a power company executive while leading a group to remove the company’s board.

In March 2021, Nye deputies allowed Tyler Kennedy to drive away despite finding drugs in his car. The office told reporters at the time that the officers did not think Kennedy was high, but bodycam video obtained by the Review-Journal shows officers discussing that Kennedy was impaired before they gave him the keys to his truck. He killed three people in a head-on crash an hour later and was sentenced in July to as long as 60 years in prison.

Even before the Review-Journal investigations, Wehrly was controversial.

In 2018, she apologized for accidentally leaving her gun in a casino bathroom.

A year later, Wehrly invoked Hitler when refusing to enforce the state’s new gun background checks. In March 2020, she said her department would not enforce the governor’s statewide closure decree on local businesses for COVID-19.

She also posted recruitment billboards in 2018 that her critics charged were political campaign ads in disguise. She said independent observers found no problems with the billboards.

Wehrly, 78, recently announced her health has rebounded after cancer treatment.

McGill will take office in January.

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com and follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

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