Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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WEEK IN REVIEW: CLARK COUNTY:

Sign-toting preachers on the Strip may see law change

After ACLU intervenes, commission could scrap body-width provision

Perhaps the only people on the Strip more annoying than smut peddlers might be those street preachers who hold up signs with messages that say things like “God hates ____.”

Well, those guys are now forging county law.

How are they doing that?

In 2005 street preachers Jim Webber and Tom Griner held their characteristic large banners over their heads with the messages “Don’t gamble with your soul” and “Turn from sin, Turn to Jesus.” Metro Police threw the banners to the ground and handcuffed the preachers, according to court documents. The police then measured the signs and the bodies of the two preachers before taking them away. Webber taped the whole thing. So did a crew from the TV show COPS.

Why would police measure someone’s body?

Clark County has a law that prohibits people from carrying signs or banners on the Strip that exceed the widths of their bodies. It was intended to prevent pedestrian obstructions.

The American Civil Liberties Union took up the preachers’ cause and sued Clark County, calling the law an unconstitutional violation of free speech and religion. That lawsuit could come to an end Tuesday, when commissioners consider a proposed change in the law that would settle the case.

What’s the proposal?

The language in the law that prohibits signs that are wider than a person’s body would be eliminated. New language also would require that a person or object on the sidewalk cause an actual obstruction before the law can be enforced.

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada ACLU, said Webber and Griner are happy with the proposal.

Any follow-up news on that sewer district audit?

Not yet. For those who missed it, a county audit released last week found the Clark County Water Reclamation District overpaid a company more than $227,000, primarily because it paid the company for the services of a lab manager who the district was simultaneously paying as a district employee. The county is trying to find out whether the company provided additional service to justify the payments.

There was another audit that came out last week.

More bad news?

Not quite as bad. The audit took a look at the county’s contract with Corporate Express, an office supply company that did $3.7 million in business with the county from July 2005 to June 2006.

One of the main problems: The county often failed to take advantage of a 1 percent discount offered by the company if the county pays within 30 days of the invoice date. Of 25 randomly selected purchases, the audit found that the county failed to take advantage of the discount six times. That cost the county $273.

No worries, though. The county took advantage of the 1 percent discount when it shouldn’t have in eight cases, for a total of $268 — almost making it a wash.

The auditors also found that Corporate Express doesn’t always deliver products as quickly as required under the contract. The contract also did not restrict price increases.

County Auditor Jerry Carroll recommended that the county negotiate price caps and penalties for late deliveries into future contracts. He also recommended that two high-volume county purchases — paper and printer toner — be considered for separate contracts with more favorable terms.

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