RECALL THE CABAL!

Palomino Valley is facing a crisis, and our community urgently needs your vote in the upcoming recall election of two members (trustees) of the troubled Palomino Valley General Improvement District (PVGID). The members in question are Donald Otto and Thomas Baker. If you voted in the 2020 election, you now have an opportunity to recall Don Otto. If you voted in the 2022 election, you now have an opportunity to recall Tom Baker. They must be removed as soon as possible before further harm ensues.

See the text of the actual recall petitions here: Baker and Otto Recall Petitions.

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Those of us who have paid attention to the issues here in the valley are astonished and dismayed to have witnessed the turmoil and trouble within the PVGID since the last (2022) election. In the span of less than 11 months, rancor, hostility, and brash decisions have replaced the thoughtful decision making and cooperation we once witnessed with prior boards during the monthly meetings. Did prior board members disagree with one another? Of course, but unlike the members of the current board, however, they did not make brash, ill-informed decisions with no regard for the consequences. That is the modus operandi of the new “regime.”


The New "Regime"

A regime is defined as an oppressive or undemocratic government, or a heavy-handed administration or group in charge of an organization.

In case you think we are throwing about pejoratives through a smear campaign, take note that the newly installed, but woefully inexperienced President, Tom Baker, described his new power bloc (Helton, Otto, and Baker) as, in his own words, the new “regime.” Further, he added, "get used to it!" We don’t want or need regimes or dictators, here, Mr. Baker. We need people who will unselfishly serve the community. He has clearly ignored and violated his sworn Oath of Office. 

Baker knew next to nothing about the inner workings of the PVGID, yet he was elected President of the board by a three member majority – a disastrous decision. It is also important to note that the two other longer serving and more experienced trustees voted against Baker.

Within the new regime is a three-member cabal, with its ringleader, Don Otto, directing the show. A cabal is defined as a conspiratorial group of plotters or intriguers. Otto has worked stealthily, but tirelessly for some time now, not for the benefit of the valley, but in a focused effort to coalesce power into a three person (majority) voting bloc. To that end, he has succeeded, but what is his ultimate goal?

Mr. Otto’s goal is to transform the structure of the PVGID, so that its employees will fall under his personal command and authority, not the 5-member elected board. Why? So that one section of Quaking Aspen Road upon which he lives will receive improvements above and beyond what other roads in the valley receive. Based on the large number of transparently self-serving agenda items he has suggested over the course of many months, even the most charitable observer would conclude that his motives are questionable, at best.

Otto’s agenda requests were so numerous and egregious that many of them were stricken from meeting agendas. Further, Otto was repeatedly cautioned by the PVGID attorney Patrick Mansfield to restrain from such self-serving motions. He not only ignored the cautions, but pushed on and gradually assembled a 3-member majority in 2023, known as the cabal. They now vote in near lockstep. Is this the PVGID you want?     

We Don’t Elect Kings

During a 2023 meeting, and on the record, trustee John Patterson took strong exception to Don Otto’s persistent and repeated proposals to “run the show.” Patterson stated “We don’t elect kings here.

Hostile Work Environment

Don Otto has created a hostile and toxic work environment for the employees. Again, he has attempted to set himself up as a one man show where he, and not the 5-member board, will make day-to-day decisions and give orders directly to the operations manager (OM), Shawn Kelly. This is directly contrary to how the board has operated for the last 50 years. Otto does not care about such things. Shawn does his job well, and based on feedback from the community, it is clear that the residents appreciate Shawn and his outstanding work ethic. There is no problem with Shawn Kelly. The problem lies with the troublesome Don Otto.

Who has the PVGID lost as result of the cabal’s behavior?:

• PVGID attorney Patrick Mansfield, resigned out of frustration and disgust, as the cabal flagrantly ignored his legal advice on numerous matters, especially their repeated open meeting law violations.

• Bookkeeper and Assistant to the Secretary Vickie DiMambro, resigned out of frustration and disgust.

• Assistant to the Board Cathy Glatthar, axed, immediately, in mid-meeting, October 19, 2023 by the three cabal members (Helton/Otto/Baker).

• Replacement Bookkeeper and Assistant to the Secretary, Kersten Schreier, resigned because Cathy Glatthar was terminated and no longer available to train her.

The Surveillance Caper

Ever since Shawn Kelly was hired to be the Operations Manager, Don has had a personal vendetta against him and has created a toxic work environment for the employees, which has negatively affected the entire team and their families. Otto further exacerbated the already tense relationship with Operations Manager Shawn Kelly by having installed (at Pal Val taxpayers’ expense) an $8,000 web video surveillance system in the PVGID’s equipment yard. A full-blown surveillance system! For what purpose?

Otto says it was installed so that he could monitor what equipment goes out and what equipment doesn’t go out. A couple of $79 trail cams from Cabela's would have sufficed for this purpose. This elaborate surveillance system includes a video camera (with audio) that was installed inside the office trailer, pointed directly at the employees’ desks. No good reason exists for this, outside of pure, vindictive harassment. In fact, it is an unprecedented invasion of privacy.

Do you have a workplace where a video camera with audio is poised above your desk, watching and listening to your every move? Would you want to work in such a place? When asked why a camera was being installed in the office area, the installer stated it was “in case there was a fire.” Laughable, but we are not amused.  

Does the camera have a built-in fire extinguisher? Will the camera alert the fire department? Will the camera record the fire as it burns and destroys the office trailer where the expensive spy camera is mounted? Will the live feed be viewable on a website that currently only Otto has the password access to?

Truth be told, there is no legitimate or valid reason for a spy camera in that office.

Mr. Toad’s Otto's Wild Ride

Don Otto was elected in 2018 to fill an unexpired term and ran again in 2020 and was elected to a full, 4-year term. Don ran for office because he wanted improvements to the roads that he and his family drive upon. He’s had self-serving interests from the start, and was cautioned on numerous occasions by legal counsel that, as a Trustee, he was not to advocate for his own interests, but those of the public he was supposed to serve as an elected official.

Don’s recent actions have been the most egregious. Prior to the start of the April 20th meeting, Tom Baker told Shawn that Don wanted to run the grader on Friday April 21st. Don wanted Shawn to mark and contact USA/Call Before You Dig for the work Don planned to do on Broken Spur Road. Evidently, neither Tom nor Don knew that the PVGID employees work four 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday. Therefore, no employees would be at the yard that Friday. On Friday morning (April 21st), Don went to the yard, cut off the gate locks, and took a grader out of the yard. He went out and wreaked havoc around the Valley with the big machine. Some of the damage he did is shown in the following photos:

 - Wild Ride Part One -

Don Otto scraped vegetation along the sides of Wayside Road and left that dead, dried up vegetation strewn along the shoulders. As can be clearly seen in this photo, Don pushed piles of vegetation around the base of a power pole, where, not too long ago, NV Energy and Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue had worked hard to clear such vegetation in an effort to mitigate the fire danger.

 

- Wild Ride Part 2 -

These are two photos submitted by a resident whose property fronts Whiskey Springs Road. The resident reported, in part:

"I’m glad the road along my fence got cleared but all the brush got piled up on my fence. I have a hot wire on it and it was grounded out. I have a guy coming to paint and repair the wood fences, is this brush going to stay here or will someone be back to scrape it away? "

 

- Wild Ride Part 3 -

These two photos below are from a complaint submitted by a resident whose property fronts Amy Road (south of Wilcox Ranch Road) after Don Otto Don used the grader in front of the resident’s property on Friday, April 21, 2023. The resident felt the destruction of his road frontage was in retaliation for a post he made earlier that morning on Nextdoor in support of “… our GID team (Shawn and his crew).” In his complaint, the resident stated, in part:

"This person [operating the grader, Don Otto] then proceeded to work from the mailboxes (halfway up my property) to the area just above it. He worked in that one area on and off for about 3 hours. What was once a nicely compacted granite road was now a dirty mess. The granite was now completely gone and we are just left with dirt and mud in front of our driveway and property.

In addition, he filled in our culverts with dirt, left trenches from the road onto our property that would divert any water from the road onto our land to flood, and flattened the hill at our property line. He did not fill in any of the other Culverts on Amy (even though they are in the same line)."

 

- Wild Ride Part 4 -

This photo, also of Amy Road (south of Wilcox Ranch Road) shows how Don Otto scraped the road surface and pulled up rocks and left holes in and loose rocks on the road surface. For the very reason that there is nothing but exposed rocks on this road segment, it is now scheduled to be covered with aggregate material. Because of Don Otto’s reckless actions, the road is in worse condition than if he had just left it alone.

Experience counts. Or not.

It should be pointed out here that Don Otto does have some experience as a grader operator on construction sites. What he lacks, however, is the finesse required to “finish grade” residential dirt roads, such as ours. One resident remarked that his work was that of a ham-fisted Neanderthal.

Further, Otto does not understand or acknowledge the necessity of watering the dirt roads before putting a blade to them. Besides not being able to get a good “cut” to properly grade the road, there’s also the fire danger associated with a metal grader blade scraping rocks and creating sparks, which can easily ignite cheat grass and other dry vegetation, and cause a wildland fire. Such ignorance is dangerous!

Beware the Sandman

Mr. Otto, without board approval, and with no public input, violated PVGID policy by removing material from an emergency stockpile, and had it placed on his section of Quaking Aspen Road In addition, other material was processed from a PVGID pit, trucked to, and placed on his road. Nothing to see here folks. Move along......

Where's the outrage?

50 Years and Thousands of Hours

For 50 years (since 1973) the PVGID board, comprised of five elected trustees, conducted monthly meetings. Thousands of man-hours have been spent over the years refining and developing the PVGID’s policies and procedures.

Board members have staggered terms, so that new, incoming trustees, unfamiliar with the inner workings of the organization can, over time, become sufficiently knowledgeable enough to make informed decisions. Baker and Otto have deliberately disregarded these policies and procedures, and have treated knowledgeable staff members with utter contempt when they (staff) attempted to point out errors and offer corrections.

We Don’t Need No Stinking Rules

The regime has been reminded on numerous occasions that the PVGID is a government entity, subject to ALL rules and Nevada statutes that govern such elected boards. The current regime has ignored the laws, in particular the open meeting law! Did you know that it is unlawful for a quorum (three or more trustees) to meet in person or by electronic means (phone, text, etc.) in order to discuss any GID business, outside of a public meeting? That is what the new regime has routinely done, with witnesses present. They have been cautioned, but they just don’t care.

- Those who want power are the least who deserve it -


Swamp Creatures

New! Update: 11-16-2023

During the 11/16/2023 PVGID meeting, Tom Baker, referred to Pal Val residents in favor of the recall as "swamp creatures." Yes, he did. Many of us witnessed this unwarranted slander in that meeting. The statement was captured on the meeting's digital recorder, which is now in the permanent record. 

Are you getting a better glimpse into his character yet? Do you really want this person on the board, let alone as its president?

Institutional Suicide

In the October 2023 meeting, administrative assistant Cathy Glatthar was brusquely terminated by the three member voting bloc (the “cabal”) consisting of Tom Baker, Don Otto, and Dan Helton. Was she fired for making errors? No. For poor work performance? No. Cathy’s work quality was never in question. So, why was her contract terminated? Was any legitimate reason given? No.

It appears that she was fired because the regime resented the tremendous knowledge that she acquired over many years about Palomino Valley, the PVGID, its policies, and its procedures. Cathy was the person who researched and wrote up the history of the PVGID and Pal Val. Read it here. She also wrote and produced the Board Member’s Handbook, an essential book that trustees are supposed to read. No one in the new regime has bothered to read it. Why? Because they see the PVGID as a private boy's club to run as they please. They see no need to read a handbook or follow rules.

Why would anyone fire a valuable team member like that? The only justification that Tom Baker offered was that "we need a change." The truth is that the cabal did not care to have any of their errors (and there were many) corrected. How feeble and pathetic. When you combine fragile egos with misogynistic inclinations, you end up with disastrous decisions.

Baker and the cabal terminated Cathy's contract so hastily that they never bothered to ask the most  important question: who would train her potential replacements? We say replacements in the plural because she was basically doing the work of three people. Oh, and trustee Helton had the audacity to state that we (the regime) could "get that work done for a lot less." Right.

When Cathy’s contract was abruptly terminated, the new bookkeeper, who was still being trained by Cathy, announced that without Cathy’s expertise, she would not be able to do her job. As a result, she announced that she was resigning as of October 23rd, after the payroll was processed. As of now, there are no contract workers to handle any of the financial or administrative work of our district. It is a classic case of unwarranted, organizational suicide - incredibly foolish and ultimately, costly. 

Tons of Work And No One Left To Do It

Minutes and Agendas: Who now will take notes and write up the monthly meeting minutes? We have learned that the cabal has tasked attorney Flaherty at $315 per hour to do that! For how long? More money for the lawyer means less money for our roads! Who will write up the agenda for upcoming meetings? Attorney Flaherty?

Diesel fuel: Who will pay the fuel supplier for the fuel that runs the graders, vehicles, and other machines? Do they even know how or when they are paid?

The PVGID website: Who will maintain and revise the website with timely updates about meeting minutes, the agenda, and meeting notices? How about Road Work Alerts? Many people look to the website to learn when road improvement projects are going to take place, in order to plan an alternate route.

Payroll: Who will pay the employees and oversee deductions and other matters? Even with a payroll service, who oversees how they get paid?

PERS: Who will take care of the complex Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) filings?

Researcher: Over the years, the administrative assistant (Cathy) was called upon frequently to perform research in a wide variety of subjects for a particular board member and/or the board as a whole. This required knowledge of County ordinances and codes, zoning regulations, land maps, legal easements, State statutes, and much more.

Under the former GID’s attorney, Louis Test, Cathy Glatthar performed so much legal research and so often, that Louis soon recognized that she excelled at it. Cathy, in effect, became Louis’ unofficial paralegal. More importantly, her hourly rate as the assistant to the board was significantly less than an employee of a law office. She saved the GID a ton of money over the years!

Banking: Who will deal with Wells Fargo, communicate with bank personnel, and handle the necessary transfers of funds between accounts?

Insurance: Who will handle Workers’ Comp, the liability insurance, and the employee health, dental, and vision insurance concerns?

Email correspondence: Who will handle Pal Val residents’ email requests? No one in the cabal has the knowledge or inclination to answer inquiries regarding road maintenance requests, complaints, questions from property owners, real estate agents, and other wide-ranging general questions.

Annual audit: The PVGID’s statutorily-required, annual audit is in process, and without a bookkeeper, final reports required by the auditor cannot be produced. If the auditor is able to finish the audit, only Cathy knows what to look for when proofing the draft audit. Does the cabal even remember that the audit is in process? It’s doubtful that they know anything about what’s to be done once the audit is complete. Tom Baker will certainly be getting a call from the Nevada Department of Taxation and the Washoe County Clerk. Mr. Baker won’t have a clue, however, because he felt they needed a “change,” under his new regime. He and his comrades in the cabal voted to terminate Cathy Glatthar’s contract. All these points are the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.”

There is much more. Few people understand that the assistant to the board’s work stretches farther and deeper than many give credit for. That job is the “oil that keeps the machine running." The cabal has sabotaged its own organization. The cabal has betrayed their oaths of office. They are sworn in to serve the community, not to harm it.

In Conclusion

Our valley has been fortunate over the years to have had qualified and dedicated trustees serve on the board. Most had a selfless desire to serve the community, and not themselves. Today, we have trouble. 

It is imperative that you vote to recall Tom Baker and Don Otto.

Respectfully submitted,
Concerned Residents of Palomino Valley

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