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COLUMN: Abuse of power

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By The Staff

There was much hope and enthusiasm after the March 2008 Las Vegas municipal election, but that has rapidly faded. This is largely due to the abuse of power by our mayor.

City government is in worse shape today than it was a year ago and there does not seem to be relief in sight. Our mayor is micromanaging city government, violating provisions in the charter, and acting without the consent of the governing body. The result is continued division among the City Council and no progress in making Las Vegas better for all citizens.

The Las Vegas city charter clearly states that “the city manager is the chief administrative officer and shall be responsible for the proper administrative functioning of all aspects of municipal government … the mayor is the official head of the city in public ceremonies and in the execution of legal documents, and in time of local disaster or military action he shall assume responsibility for supervision of emergency relief and civil defense.” Aside from leading the City Council meetings and voting in a tie, the mayor has no other powers unless they are granted by the City Council.

Part of the problem existing at City Hall is the micromanaging by the mayor. A gag order was placed on department heads not allowing them to talk with the media. Department heads have been told not to talk to or work directly with members of the City Council. The mayor took it upon himself to oversee daily operations at City Hall demanding that every item and contract that comes through the manager’s office be reviewed by the mayor. The council meeting agendas are supposed to be done by the city clerk, yet the mayor has also taken up the task of setting the meeting agendas. This may be the reason why utility department items and other important issues dealing with water and gas never made it before council on the agenda; in essence, the agenda’s were hijacked. Nowhere in the city charter does it state that the mayor develops the agenda.

The issuing of executive orders is a power usually reserved for national leaders like the President of the United States or chief executive officers of large corporations. The mayor has issued at least three sets of executive orders. These documents were an attempt to control city government and undermine the effectiveness of the former city manger who resigned as a result of the mayor’s micromanaging.  

Without the consent of the council, the mayor requested that the interim city attorney write a letter to the state Attorney General’s office requesting an investigation. The letter makes the accusation that the former utility director and/or council members granted utility waivers or adjustments without authorization. The letter refers to a 1992 administrative regulation that states “only the city manager can grant adjustments or waivers to utility customers.” The administrative regulation is signed by a former city manager and appears to have not been approved by city council — all city regulations should be approved by the council. Thus it is not clear if this is a valid regulation.

The letter to the AG goes on to justify an investigation on the grounds of public corruption. The generally accepted definition of corruption is the intentional abuse of power by a public official for private gain. The interim attorney states, “We would be happy to share all of the pertinent documents on this matter to [sic] your office upon request.” I had requested these documents yet no evidence has been provided to the council to substantiate the claims in the letter to the AG’s office. However, a reporter from the Albuquerque Journal claims to have copies of the documentation sent to the AG’s office that alleges wrongdoing. Since there was no intent for private gain and no evidence has been provided to City Council, the accusation of corruption in the letter to the AG borders on libel.

It makes you wonder — how much time and taxpayer money has the mayor spent on legal work and opinions with our interim city attorney? The mayor seems to have forgotten that the interim city attorney and the interim city manager work for both the mayor and the council. The mayor has used these individuals to carry out his directives, without the consent of the City Council. This is an abuse of power and a violation of the city charter.  

Initially, I supported the mayor and hoped for progress. However, now I must distance myself from the mayor due to the abuse of power in the form of micromanaging, violation of the city charter, and acting without the consent of the council. We desperately need a city manager and attorney who will not be yes-men to the mayor. We need a city manager and attorney who realize his or her positions in city government and will work for both the mayor and the council. If the mayor cannot provide leadership and continues with his current behavior, he should spare the citizens of Las Vegas continued delay in progress and resign.  

Andrew Feldman is a Ward 3 member of Las Vegas City Council. He may be reached at 505-454-5306.