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EDITORIAL: An Orwellian City Hall

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By The Staff

In recent months, top Las Vegas city officials have urged the community to focus on the positive in city government. Indeed, Mayor Tony Marquez has been upset with negative coverage of his administration in this newspaper.

Now City Hall thinks it has figured out a way to get everyone to forget about recent controversies — just pretend they never happened. That smacks of the content of George Orwell’s novel, “1984,” in which officials revised history in favor of the state’s mere interpretation of it.

In early February, a City Council majority fired then-Utilities Director George DuFour. In the discussion, council members with sharply different opinions on DuFour made their views known.

Last month, the City Council was presented with minutes from that meeting, which seemed to adequately represent what happened. But the administration asked that the council delay approval.

This month, the council was once again presented with the minutes from the February meeting. This time, however, all of the discussion was removed from the minutes. All that was left was the actual vote to fire DuFour and related parliamentary procedures.

Besides the section on DuFour, no other part of the minutes was changed.

Fortunately, council members Andrew Feldman, Morris Madrid and Diane Moore said they didn’t want to approve minutes that excluded the discussion.

Asked about how to do minutes, City Attorney Carlos Quiñones said the city could either transcribe entire meetings or just list official actions. He noted that community members could listen to the video of a council meeting if they want to find out what was said.

Sure, but that makes it much more difficult for the public. Why not just continue with the tradition of having detailed minutes?

No one in Marquez’s administration gave any reason for wanting to erase this part of the city government’s history, but the mayor said the city wanted minutes that would protect itself.

That could mean that the city is fearing a lawsuit from DuFour. And officials may fear that the minutes could provide some type of ammunition for the ex-official.

While that may be the case, it doesn’t give the city the right to undertake Orwellian moves to keep information from the public.

Mr. Mayor, you promised more transparency in city government in last year‘s campaign, yet you moved in the opposite direction, with the encouragement of a secrecy-obsessed city attorney.

You may take a page from the days of Mayor Henry Sanchez and then-City Attorney Matt Sandoval, who, while not perfect, had better records when it came to openness.