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KUNR Today: Vaughn Hartung recall petition withdrawn, IRS asked to increase some gas reimbursements

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Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

Recall petition against Washoe Co. Commissioner Chair Hartung withdrawn
By Lucia Starbuck

A Reno man says he’ll keep trying to remove Republican Washoe County Commission Chair Vaughn Hartung from office. That vow comes after a recall petition was withdrawn on Friday.

Robert Beadles said in an email to KUNR he will use “media and ads on every platform with real Patriots signing on who won’t have a change of moral consciousness.” He describes himself as a “Christian, Husband, Father—Successful Serial Entrepreneur.”

Originally two officials with the Washoe County Republican Party, Cindy Martinez and Sandra Linares, filed the recall petition. Then, they withdrew their support. Martinez told the Reno Gazette-Journal she wanted no part in what she called salacious allegations that Beadles made against Hartung.

The petition had a laundry list of allegations against the chair, including sexual harassment of county employees, failure to address election integrity and unprofessional behavior.

Hartung hasn’t yet responded to KUNR’s request for comment, but told multiple media outlets, “I look forward to continue working for the people of Washoe County undistracted by this effort.”

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Sen. Cortez Masto asks IRS to increase per-mile reimbursement
By Lucia Starbuck

Two western Democratic senators are asking the IRS to increase per-mile reimbursement for people who use their personal vehicles for work, charity or medical services.

Senators Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Michael Bennet from Colorado sent the IRS a letter. The lawmakers say raising the rate will offer some relief to independent contractors, small businesses transporting goods, and medical service providers, particularly those in rural areas. The current IRS deduction rate is 58.5 cents per mile for business use.

Nevada man to face judge in suspected abduction of woman
By The Associated Press

A northern Nevada man is expected to face a judge this week on a felony kidnapping charge in the disappearance of an 18-year-old woman last seen in her car in a Walmart parking lot more than two weeks ago. Naomi Irion was last seen before dawn on March 12 when security video showed a masked man wearing a hooded sweatshirt approach her in her car outside the store in rural Fernley.

It wasn't immediately clear Monday if suspect Troy Driver of Fallon had a lawyer representing him. The Lyon County sheriff's office released a photo of Driver. He remained jailed on $750,000 bail.

South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Clive Savacool is resigning
By Lucia Starbuck

South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Clive Savacool is resigning. The city released a statement but didn’t explain why he’s leaving the position. Savacool joined in April of 2020 and his last day will be May 6. He’s on paid time off until then.

The city said his biggest impact was helping update South Lake Tahoe’s evacuation plan. It was approved just weeks before residents were forced to evacuate because of the Caldor Fire.

Expert says fires no longer have seasons; they are now year-round 
Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

A seasonal break from wildfires is disappearing in the West. A fire in northern Colorado last weekend forced thousands of evacuations less than three months after that area’s last major blaze.

The fire near Boulder started on Saturday as winds picked up, and initially put thousands at risk. Some snow patches accumulated there, but the fire just burned around them. Local crews were fast to respond and keep it from burning down homes or injuring residents, but just a few months ago, the Marshall Fire, fueled by dry brush and winds, destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Brian Oliver, an incident commander working on the fire in Boulder, gave a media briefing on Monday.

“It’s March; this isn’t fire season, per se, and we just had a 200-acre fire, so really the concern is any time there’s not snow, it’s fire,” Oliver said.

Instead of fire seasons, experts say we now just have fire years. Meteorologists predict drought and warmer weather persisting around the West this spring. For those out spring camping, this is a warning that most of these wildfires are human-caused.

$4 million donation to transform nonprofit for Native American elders
By Alice Fordham, KUNM for the Mountain West News Bureau

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is making donations to hundreds of organizations – a total of nearly $4 billion. One gift will transform a nonprofit serving Native American elders around the country.

The National Indian Council on Aging, headquartered in Albuquerque, received a gift of $4 million from Scott, who is the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Executive director Larry Curley, of the Navajo Nation, said the gift was astounding

“I'm excited, the staff are excited, and it's, quite frankly, it's the largest donation that the organization has ever received in its 40 years of existence,” Curley said.

Curley said the group is brainstorming how best to spend the money to further his organization's work of supporting elders from Indian and Alaska Native communities across the country. He said one issue that's a priority is communication in places where internet-based support isn't an option.

“We're looking at the possibility of creating a 24/7 crisis call center for our tribal elders,” Curley said.

Curley said the gift opens up horizons for the organization, which strives to help a group with high levels of poverty and stark healthcare disparities compared with the wider population of the US.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

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