Runoff election set for April 15

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By Martin Salazar

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to hold the runoff election for the Ward 1 Council seat on April 15 but not before incumbent Tonita Gurule-Giron and her supporters accused the mayor and city manager of conspiring with her opponent.

Gurule-Giron, who has  held the Ward 1 Council seat for the last four years, received nine more votes than L’Esperance during last week’s city elections. But she did not capture more than 50 percent of the vote, and under the new city charter that means that she and L’Esperance must face each other in a runoff election.

City residents not currently registered to vote have until March 28 to register if they want to vote in the runoff. Early voting will take place at City Hall from March 31 until April 11.

As with the previous election, two polling sites will be operating on April 15, one at the Michael Marr Gymnasium and the other at the West Las Vegas “Gillie” Lopez Gymnasium.

The election may be a month away, but it is already starting to heat up.

L’Esperance met with Mayor Alfonso Ortiz Jr. and City Manager Timothy Dodge behind closed doors at City Hall on Monday, and that prompted speculation and accusations from Gurule-Giron and others that they were engaged in back-door politics.

Both Ortiz and Dodge deny the allegations.

Supporters of Gurule-Giron also complained that the city’s code enforcement department has begun to target Gurule-Giron’s signs.

It’s no secret that Gurule-Giron has a strained relationship with Dodge and Ortiz. They clash often at City Council meetings.

During a telephone interview on Tuesday, Dodge said that L’Esperance called the mayor late last week to express his concerns about political signs being placed in the city’s right-of-way and about Gurule-Giron’s supporters parking vans in front of his signs. He said the matter was brought to code enforcement’s attention.

Dodge said he was called into a meeting with the mayor and L’Esperance on Monday to discuss the sign issue, and a few minutes later Gurule-Giron was knocking on the mayor’s door making accusations.

“In my opinion, Oliver is trying to be civil about this, and these guys are taking things and spinning them,” he said.

Dodge said he hasn’t gotten involved in any municipal election.

As for the signs, Dodge said he doesn’t believe it’s right for political signs to be placed in right-of-way. But he said City Attorney Dave Romero is researching the matter, looking at state and federal law.

Supporters of Gurule-Giron said during the public comment portion of the meeting that code enforcement had gone to at least one area resident and asked him to remove one of the signs on Monday.

Dodge said he wasn’t sure what actions code enforcement may have taken on Monday, but he said he was told that code enforcement did contact Gurule-Giron last week about the signs.

Among those speaking out against the city’s actions was Emilio Aragon, who placed a Gurule-Giron sign in front of his office, though he acknowledged that the sign wasn’t placed on his property. Aragon said he was told to take down the sign on Monday.

At Monday’s Council meeting, Aragon told the governing body that his First Amendment rights were being violated.

“Don’t threaten my First Amendment, because you’ll have a fight on your hands,” he said.

Local resident Lee Einer questioned how many others had been told to take down their Gurule-Giron signs.

“This smells bad...,” he said. “It seems like the apparatus of city government is being used for political purposes.”

Einer also noted that the city charter prohibits city employees from politicking while on duty and questioned why Dodge and L’Esperance were meeting behind closed doors.

“If constituents want to meet with us for whatever reason, we meet with them,” Mayor Ortiz responded.

Gurule-Giron later admonished Dodge that he was not to engage in any political activity during work time.