(NN&V Staff) – Nevada state district judge Susan Scann found late last week that the City of Boulder City sought to improperly discourage citizen initiative petitions. In making her findings, Judge Scann fined the City more than $10,000 and required that the City dismiss citizens it had named as defendants in a case the City brought challenging citizen initiatives.
The City brought three separate cases and named several citizens as defendants. These citizens had merely circulated petitions to get the initiatives on the ballot. When sued as defendants, these citizens were forced to obtain legal counsel.
“The purpose of the multiple lawsuits [was] to discourage any other petitions seeking to set policy for the City,” the judge wrote. This was “unjustified. Multiple lawsuits naming individuals where another method is available without naming individuals is a needless increase in the cost of litigation rather than [the City’s] stated goal of cost savings.”
Boulder City Councilperson Linda Strickland, who represented the citizens in court and who is in a pitched battle for the Mayor’s office with current Mayor Roger Tobler in Tuesday’s election, said the judge’s decision shows that the City, including Mayor Tobler, was trying to prevent citizens from exercising their rights in influencing city policy.
“These citizens did nothing more than circulate petitions to allow the voters of the City to determine City policy, but the powers that be in the City don’t like that. And they are willing to waste a lot of taxpayer dollars to hold onto their power.”
Strickland said the City hired one of the most expensive law firms in Las Vegas to represent it and has spent in excess of $160,000 so far on the lawsuits. It now must pay an additional $10,000 for its improper conduct. “This was a naked attempt by the powers that be in Boulder City, including the current Mayor, to discourage citizens from participating in their government. The voters of the city should be outraged.”
Judge Scann did not rule on the merits of the City’s lawsuits, only that the City improperly filed multiple lawsuits and named individuals when there was an alternative procedure available that would have allowed the City to bring just one case and would not have required naming the petition organizers as defendants.
A copy of the judge’s decision is attached. The case is The City of Boulder City v. Daniel E. Jensen et al. (Nevada District Court Case No. A629989).