Las Vegas Sun

May 4, 2015

Currently: 72° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Answers: Clark County:

Question for commissioners: Who should oversee inquest in police shootings?

Changes needed to get the coroner’s inquest system up and running appear so simple to some but so very difficult to others.

County commissioners changed the system this year, hoping to make it fairer to the families of people shot and killed by police.

They created an ombudsman position to represent families during an inquest. They also eliminated the announcement of a “verdict” at the end of the inquest, making it a strictly fact-finding process.

But the new system has never been tried because of lawsuits filed by the police union.

One of those lawsuits was resolved when the state Supreme Court said the system was legal except for a clause saying a justice of the peace must oversee it. Designate a different overseer, like a hearing master, the court said, and the new inquest is fine.

County commissioners will discuss that idea again Tuesday.

But didn’t the police union say its members wouldn’t take part in it even if a hearing master was in charge?

It did. There’s a feeling that police might be jeopardizing themselves by participating, especially if the family later sues them.

If the officer doesn’t testify, does that make the inquest meaningless?

Not according to Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.

“Cops don’t have to be there,” she said. “They don’t want to be, and we don’t need them to be.”

Giunchigliani said notes from the department’s investigation, along with testimony from other witnesses and other officers, would suffice.

“This is about keeping face with the community,” she said. “These families have no access to any information, and the inquest is the only public venue to let them and the public know what happened. This is a way to give those families some closure.”

Some of her colleagues have said they want to wait until the resolution of another lawsuit, this one in federal court, before considering a change in oversight or otherwise tweaking the new system.


Commissioners might disband all or part of a hospital advisory board established a few years ago when the commission felt a separate board of medical professionals could avoid politics and do a better job of making contractual and other decisions for University Medical Center.

On Tuesday, however, commissioners will talk about dissolving that board, which one commissioner said “isn’t working like we thought it would.”

To replace the board, some commissioners want legislative approval to form a separate board to oversee hospital operations, something done in public hospitals throughout the country. UMC administrators say it will allow them to meet behind closed doors, preventing private hospitals from stealing or pre-empting UMC’s plans.

What are the chances the Legislature would allow that?

“Dead on arrival” is how Commissioner Tom Collins puts it. Since county commissioners aren’t unanimous about that idea, he added, state lawmakers won’t bother with it.

“They have other problems to solve,” he said.

He and Giunchigliani do not support creating the board.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak, on the other hand, said UMC has hired formidable lobbyists, so he isn’t as pessimistic as Collins.

If the county disbands the advisory board and the Legislature doesn’t let it create a new board, then what?

Then, hospital oversight falls back into the lap of county commissioners. Giunchigliani sees that as a good thing. She said it would make commissioners focus on improving UMC’s finances by, among other things, considering the creation of a hospital taxing district.

A taxing district would create a zone over a wide swath of the county, potentially collecting taxes not only from unincorporated Clark County taxpayers but from taxpayers in Las Vegas, Henderson and other municipalities. Would voter-conscious commissioners try that?

More of them have voiced support for the idea because only county taxpayers fund the hospital, even though people from other communities use it. Collins, however, said he wanted to see whether the Legislature changes a tax-distribution formula next year. If that doesn’t happen in a way that benefits the county — by providing more tax dollars — he said it might be time for commissioners to push for a hospital taxing district.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 1 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. "County commissioners changed the system this year, hoping to make it fairer to the families of people shot and killed by police."

    One glaring ignored factor is the inherent conflict of interest in the county conducting the inquest when it has such a big stake in the outcome -- if the shooting is declared unjustified in any way, the county is directly liable. The only way it could be in anyway clean is if 1) a jury decides the facts, and 2) Metro itself and the executing officers are directly accountable. Maybe that would give them incentive to cull instead of coddle the thugs!

    "Commissioner Steve Sisolak, on the other hand, said UMC has hired formidable lobbyists, so he isn't as pessimistic as Collins."

    UMC is struggling financially yet it somehow finds "formidable lobbyists" for what must be assumed to be "formidable" fees? More proof We the people have allowed more insiders to suck on a drying public teat. UMC's budget should be chopped accordingly!

    "I think you all know that I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" -- the late President Ronald Reagan on YouTube @