When Richard Land started his work day Tuesday, he was the Nevada Taxicab Authority’s chief administrator. By lunchtime, he was out of a job.
Land was dismissed by Nevada Department of Business and Industry Director Mendy Elliott in a move that neither Land nor the Taxicab Authority board were aware was even being contemplated beforehand.
“I just got a call from Mendy (around 11 a.m.), and she said I was being replaced. That’s all I know,” said Land, the administrator since 2005 and the board’s chairman from 2001 to 2005. “The replacement was waiting for me in the office when I got back” from a staff lunch.
Tom Czehowski, the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s chief administrative officer, has been appointed by Elliott as interim administrator, pending a candidate search by the board and the naming of a permanent replacement by Elliott.
Land, appointed under the administration of former Gov. Kenny Guinn, said he was not given a reason for the change. “It’s politics,” he said. “Goes with the country.”
State officials were vague about why they sought the change, and would not say whether Land’s dismissal was because of his performance.
“She (Elliott) just wants to take the department in a new direction,” said Amanda Penn, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Industry, of which the Taxicab Authority is a subagency. Penn added that Elliott wants the department to “be more accountable for how we use the public’s money weighed against agency performance.”
While the administrator reports to the board, the administrator is hired and fired by Elliott, appointed earlier this year by Gov. Jim Gibbons. There is no legal requirement for the board to be consulted on an administrator’s dismissal, though the board must vet potential replacements.
“There are a lot of changes that are going to be occurring in the (business and industry) department after the (legislative) session, in terms of what this new administration feels is appropriate for regulatory agencies and what they want them to do,” Penn said. “That’s pretty generic, whenever we have a new governor.”
Board chairwoman Kathryn Werner said neither she nor the board had any prior inkling that Land was on his way out.
“Literally, it came out of the blue to me. I’m shocked and a little disappointed,” Werner said. “I’d like to have been consulted,” though prior consultation was not legally required.
Werner said the board did not call for a change. “I think he (Land) has affected a lot of very positive change in this industry,” she said.
Land was a vocal advocate for the use of taxicab surveillance cameras to protect drivers from violent crimes. During his tenure, camera use, once virtually nonexistent, is now almost universal in the Las Vegas Valley’s cab fleet.
The authority oversees the 16 cab companies and roughly 1,600 cabs operating in the valley. It has final say on fares, and when and where cabs can operate.