A federal jury in Las Vegas is ordering a rural Nevada county and its former elected public administrator to pay more than $2 million to three sons who maintained that their father’s home was looted of valuables before they arrived after he died in 2006.
Lyon County is on the hook to pay $1.6 million to sons of Joe Robinson Mathis, and former county Public Administrator Richard Glover was held accountable for $280,000, said Brian Irvine, an attorney for the sons.
The county and Glover were both also held responsible to repay $217,000 for missing property, Irvine said.
The verdict was handed down Tuesday, after a five-day civil trial before U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon.
Irvine said he expects an appeal, but he felt relieved for the Mathis brothers: Richard Mathis of Las Vegas; Anthony Mathis of Montpelier, Vermont; and James Mathis of Ellensburg, Washington.
“It’s been a long haul,” said Irvine, who argued the case with attorney Justin Bustos. “They’re pleased with the result. They hope that it will be a good final result for them.”
Attorney Brian Brown, representing Lyon County, said officials were disappointed in the decision. Brown and county Manager Jeff Page said a decision whether to appeal wasn’t immediately made.
The county of about 53,000 people has an annual operating budget of about $30 million. It has insurance for acts performed by officials in their public capacity, Page said.
“We’re weighing our options at this stage,” the county manager said.
Attorneys for Glover didn’t immediately respond to messages.
The allegations revolved around the role of the elected officer entrusted to oversee administration of the estates of people who die with no qualified relative or designee to administer their affairs.
The jury found that Lyon County violated the constitutional right to due process of the Mathis family by failing to provide an opportunity for a hearing before allowing Glover into the property.
Joe Mathis died in May 29, 2006, at his home in Smith Valley, about 80 miles southeast of Reno and 30 miles southwest of the Lyon County seat of Yerington.
Family members and Glover were notified by the county sheriff, and Glover went to the home before Anthony Mathis arrived June 1. Mathis reported the house had been ransacked and that items including firearms, jewelry, silver coins, military decorations and tools had been removed, according to the complaint filed in May 2007.
Glover didn’t face criminal charges related to Mathis property. He didn’t run for re-election in 2010.
“One of the key determinations was that Mr. Glover was acting as a final policymaker on behalf of the county … without any real oversight from the county,” Irvine said.
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