The Taxicab Authority isn’t the biggest agency in the state’s stable of regulators, but it does have law enforcement responsibilities over Clark County’s 16 cab companies that are critical to our tourism industry and transportation needs for locals.
So I was shocked to learn the Department of Business and Industry didn’t vet any of the 14 applicants for Taxicab Authority administrator before the board ranked them in order of preference in September.
Is that any way to run state government? No business would present applicants for a top administrative job to a board without checking them out. The Gibbons administration isn’t revered for its vetting skills.
The selection process stalled until Jan. 7. That’s when Business and Industry Director Mendy Elliott wrote the board: “Due to the number of applicants and budget constraints, background and reference checks were not performed on the individuals prior to the interviews.” She said two of the three people the board recommended for the job didn’t pass preliminary reference checks, and she asked the board to move their fourth and fifth choices up the list.
That would place Elliott’s personal choice on the list, so she could forward his name to the governor for the final decision. Tom Czehowski, who she brought in as acting administrator in May, was the board’s fifth choice.
Elliott wasn’t available to discuss the vetting failure by her department Wednesday, and department spokeswoman Elisabeth Shurtleff said the process wasn’t something she could comment on. Shurtleff said Elliot plans to interview the third remaining candidate, whom she declined to identify. If that person is suitable, Elliott will forward that name to the governor. If not, then Shurtleff said there were several different options, which she declined to describe.
But it was clear from Tuesday’s meeting of the Taxicab Authority Board that the board members who spent a day interviewing 10 applicants thought their time had been wasted. All five board members, including the two recent appointees of Gov. Jim Gibbons who hadn’t been on the board when the interviews were conducted, agreed the board had fulfilled its duty by forwarding three names to Elliott, and, if she thought two of the three weren’t suitable, she had a third option.
Chairwoman Kathryn Werner-Collins said this was her third time selecting an administrator. “Always before, Business and Industry screened and advised us when applicants were not suitable.”
Board member Carolyn Sparks was “insulted” because all three candidates have been state or federal employees. “We don’t even know which candidate is still in the running.”
Board member Edward Goldman said Elliott “has a list of three to choose from. I don’t think the law gives her the prerogative to remove two names and move these two up.”
The tortured process bothered even Stacie Truesdell, one of two new Gibbons appointees. She made the motion not to add two additional names to the list as Elliott had asked. Her motion passed unanimously.
The three people first recommended for the permanent job, listed in order of preference, were April Woodard, Brock Croy and Gordon Walker. I’m told the candidate still under consideration is Walker, former deputy executive director at the Nevada Department of Taxation, who now works for Richman and Associates, a government subcontractor for the U.S. Department of Energy.
We should know soon what Elliott’s next move will be. Will she give Walker the job? Will she continue challenging the authority of the Taxicab Authority Board?
Despite the embarrassing revelation that Business and Industry didn’t vet candidates for a top administrative job, Gibbons stood firmly behind Elliott.
“I have the greatest respect for Mendy Elliott. She’s doing a wonderful job,” he said, adding he’s not one who micromanages.
There seems to be a pattern:
• Name Joni Eastley, who openly favors Yucca Mountain, to sit on the state’s anti-Yucca Mountain board, the Nuclear Projects Commission.
• Select Joe Enge, a teacher with no energy experience, but lots of conservative credentials, as deputy director of the state’s energy office.
• Name Joe Waltuch to be commissioner of the state’s Mortgage Lending Division. His most recent job: vice president with New Century Financial, a bankrupt subprime mortgage company under investigation by California and federal authorities.
We don’t need no stinkin’ vetting.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.