VIRGINIA CITY — A sheriff accused of misconduct in an old Nevada mining town faced a recall election Tuesday sparked by an odd mix of local critics, an influential brothel owner and managers of the industrial park that houses Tesla’s big factory that makes batteries for its electric cars.
Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro said he’s the victim of a vendetta led by a county commissioner who owns the infamous Mustang Ranch brothel and oversees the industrial park.
Commissioner Lance Gilman denies the allegation. But the Reno Gazette-Journal reports that Gilman’s Tahoe Reno Industrial Center has spent $142,000 on a campaign to oust the sheriff.
First elected in 2010, Antinoro has been accused of budget improprieties, an election ethics violation, sexually harassing a deputy and wrongfully terminating another. He has said he was targeted for ouster because his officers ticket speeders at the industrial park and have cracked down on worker-registration requirements at the brothel.
“This all boils back to the brothel,” Antinoro told the newspaper.
A group of women in the Comstock-era mining town of Virginia City filed the formal notice with the Nevada secretary of state in November seeking a special recall election.
The group is represented by Kris Thompson, the project manager for the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, which is home to high-profile companies including the “gigafactory” that manufactures Tesla’s electric car batteries.
Antinoro said his department has had run-ins with the brothel over work cards and licensing. In 2009, commissioners voted to mandate that anyone with any financial interest in a brothel must be licensed.
“They scream every time we revoke a work card for something … or if we go there and do an inspection,” he said.
Gilman said his brothel has no violation issues and that everyone working at the brothel — prostitutes, housekeepers, cooks and bartenders — must obtain work cards. “None of the employees had to have work cards until Sheriff Antinoro took over the regulation,” he said.
But Gilman said it’s “ludicrous” to suggest that’s the motivation for the special election in the rural county where fewer than 2,000 voters cast ballots in 2014. “Our sheriff’s department is dysfunctional,” he said.
Thompson said deputies have issued a “huge number of tickets” at roads near the industrial park, where most workers commute from the Reno metro area.
The sheriff “focuses his officers out here because the people at the park are not Storey County residents,” Thompson said.
Antinoro said traffic enforcement has nothing to do with the park. He said the sheriff’s department has received calls from businesses concerned over employee safety.
“They’re not being singled out,” he said. “They’re not being picked on.”