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Three vying for public administrator job

Updated October 8, 2022 - 9:19 pm

Three candidates are vying to succeed former Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles in the Nov. 8 general election.

Leading the field are longtime Assistant Public Administrator Rita Reid, who defeated Telles in the Democratic primary, and Republican Patsy Brown, a Las Vegas lawyer and businesswoman. One nonpartisan candidate, Tabatha Al-Dabbagh, is also in the race.

The public administrator’s office was marred by internal dissension during the latter half of Telles’ four-year term and was the subject of investigative stories by veteran Review-Journal journalist Jeff German, who was murdered on Sept. 2.

The 45-year-old Telles was removed from his position Oct. 5 following his September arrest in connection with the slaying of German.

The county said commissioners will move to appoint a replacement until the new public administrator takes over the office in January.

The reporter had written stories critical of Telles’ handling of the office, quoting current and former employees who told him of turmoil, favoritism and bullying from Telles and a subordinate.

Reid, 65, the top supervisor in the office the past 15 years, said she will ask the county to help with team building if she’s elected.

“We’re not going to be able to heal unless we get to know each other,” Reid said. “We need to allow the people with years of experience to share their knowledge with the rest of the office.”

Brown, who moved to Las Vegas from Southern California eight years ago, said Reid should share some of the blame for the office upheaval.

The public administrator’s office, which oversees the estates of people who have died, provides important services to the community, Brown said.

“These are people who need attention, and we can’t be distracted by inner-office shenanigans,” she said. “Rita is not handling her position well. If you know there’s an issue with Rob, especially with this many years in the position, she should have learned how to work around him or deal with him.”

In a rare move in May, Clark County managers hired former Coroner Michael Murphy to tackle the office friction.

Murphy was brought in to ease the tension following a Review-Journal story disclosing hostile workplace complaints. Co-workers accused Telles of carrying on an “inappropriate relationship” with a female estate coordinator. The workers secretly videotaped Telles in the back seat of the staffer’s car.

Telles denied the allegations, including the claims of an inappropriate office relationship, and blamed the upheaval on “a handful of old-timers” left over from Cahill’s days. Recently, several employees mentioned in German’s stories left positions in the office.

Reid, a former assistant county clerk, said she cares about the office and its mission, and is best qualified to take the reins.

“I have an interest in the people who work there to feel safe and valued,” she explained. “I have the most experience in this race than any other candidate, and I have the compassion for the people we serve.”

Brown, who runs a consulting business, ran unsuccessfully for the Las Vegas City Council in 2019 and the Clark County Commission in 202o.

She is not a licensed member of the State Bar of Nevada, but said she served as a managing partner of a law firm in the Los Angeles area before coming to Las Vegas. She is a former restaurateur who has been active in community affairs, especially veterans issues.

Brown said she will bring a “fresh look and fresh attitude” to the public administrator’s’s office, with an eye on improving morale. “One of the things I’ve learned is that you have to take care of people, and they will take care of you,” she said.

Brown was arrested and charged with suspicion of impaired driving on Sept. 1.

Al-Dabbagh did not provide any background to the Review-Journal and could not be reached for comment.

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