The beginning of the year was a turbulent time in city government: The city manager had just resigned without notice, most of the directors were new, and a political realignment was just about to happen.
Last week, the Optic received more than 100 pages of e-mails involving a quorum of the City Council. For months, the city had refused to turn over these messages, but finally did after the recommendation of the state attorney general.
In a Jan. 7 e-mail, Councilman Andrew Feldman expressed unhappiness to Mayor Tony Marquez. Copies of the e-mail were sent to Councilwoman Diane Moore and Utilities Director George DuFour.
The e-mail started with some utilities issues, but much of the rest had to deal with other matters.
In regards to Councilman Morris Madrid, Feldman wrote, “As for Morris’ grandstanding and blowing hot air, you need to cut him off with a call for the question. Do not appease him — it will be your downfall.”
Madrid declined to comment on the e-mail.
Feldman also advised the mayor to make his peace with Moore, who publicly chastised Marquez in connection with City Manager Sharon Caballero’s resignation in mid-December.
“Call her, talk to her. She wants to work together for the betterment of our city,” Feldman wrote, “but she wants to hear from you.”
At the time, the city had two people leading city government, Public Works Director Carlos Ortiz and Community Development Director Elmer Martinez, but they were officially interim city managers. In early January, the city was beginning its search for a new manager.
In the e-mail to the mayor, Feldman wrote, “City manager? Rumor is that you are negotiating with (former mayor) Matt Martinez. Big mistake if true. He will also be your downfall. Have you decided on folks for the empty exempt positions?”
Matt Martinez said last week that he was trying to help Marquez find a city manager at the time.
“He was asking for advice because I had been mayor before,” Martinez said.
As for the Chamber of Commerce, Feldman said it was “worthless for lots of money spent on them… There is in-fighting between MainStreet, EDC and the chamber. They should have one board of directors for all three groups and separate directors for each entity. They should all be housed in one building. The (city of Las Vegas) can force this since we fund them all.”
Matt Martinez, who chairs the chamber and EDC boards, said the groups have talked about consolidating under one roof but that they need to be separate because they have different functions and funding sources.
“It’s easy to criticize when you don’t understand how it works. Someday he (Feldman) will figure it out,” he said.
Feldman also accused a secretary in the city government of sabotaging Utilities Director DuFour’s efforts to get funding from the state Water Trust Board and a request for proposals for ground and water surface rights.
“Does anyone check up on her and see what she’s doing?” the councilman asked the mayor. “Many of the things that George is trying to do that will be positive for the city of Las Vegas are being subverted by (the secretary), and you are therefore not getting the truth.”
He recommended the secretary be transferred out of her current position.
“All this crap has to stop if we are going to move forward,” Feldman wrote. “Open and honest government doesn’t just mean involving public and spinning news releases. It means fully involving your colleagues and trusting in your staff that are trustworthy to do the job.”
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In an email two days later, Marquez responded, “You have an interesting way of thinking, but cannot pin it down…. But in consideration of this e-mail, I do agree with your statement of ‘fully involving your colleagues.’ This matter shall become an agenda item for all colleagues to be involved.”
Feldman’s e-mail was never brought up during an open council meeting.
Feldman said last week that he sent the e-mail when the mayor still held the councilman in his confidence.
“I have a tendency to call things as I see them. It may not be the most diplomatic way to do things, but the truth is the truth,” Feldman said.
All of the e-mails given to the Optic came from the mayor’s personal account, which led Feldman to question whether Marquez had been selective in their release.
“There is a lot missing. If you’re going to release e-mails, release them all — the ones he wrote, too,” the councilman said.
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Within a month after Feldman’s e-mail, council alliances shifted. Feldman and Moore, who had sided with Marquez on controversial issues, left the fold. And council members Madrid and Cruz Roybal — both of whom had misgivings about the mayor — started aligning themselves with him.
The issue that changed the dynamics was then-Utilities Director. DuFour. Marquez wanted him fired, and he was able to do so with the votes of Madrid and Roybal. Moore and Feldman dissented.
Around the same time, Marquez had City Attorney Carlos Quiñones ask the state attorney general and auditor’s office to launch an investigation into billing credits in the utilities department. Quiñones wrote that DuFour and a councilman, later identified as Feldman, were possibly involved in corruption.
The two men have been cleared in a draft audit.