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April 16, 2014

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Boulder City files lawsuit to block ballot initiatives

Dave Olsen

Dave Olsen

Travis Chandler

Travis Chandler

Boulder City officials have filed a complaint in Clark County District Court alleging that three ballot initiatives violate state and local laws.

The complaint, filed July 23 against eight defendants it says circulated petitions, seeks an injunction to prevent the initiatives from being placed on the November ballot because they involve administrative acts delegated to the city.

In March and April, the suit says, the defendants — Daniel D. Jensen, Walt Rapp, Linda F. Henry-Schmidt, Nancy A. Nolette, James C. Douglass, Norbert Kastl, Frank L. Fisher and Cynthia Harris — circulated petitions to amend the city charter and adopt ordinances to:

• Limit the city to owning only one 18-hole golf course.

• Limit a committee member’s term to 12 years.

• Impose a citywide vote any time Boulder City considers going into debt of at least $1 million.

City Attorney Dave Olsen said when he looked at the three ballot initiatives, they seemed similar to one about four years ago concerning an Eldorado Valley land sale, which was overturned for not meeting state laws.

After noticing possible discrepancies with state and local laws, Olsen said, he sought an outside legal opinion, which confirmed his concerns and led to the city filing the complaint.

The defendants have 20 days to file an answer, he said.

Olsen said the city is also preparing a motion of injunctive relief, which would halt the initiatives from being placed on the upcoming ballot before a court ruling.

“If the court rules they should not appear on the ballot, the parties can immediately appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said.

James C. Douglass, a defendant listed in the complaint who helped circulate the petitions, said most of the defendants who have been served the complaint will attend the Aug. 10 City Council meeting to gauge the council’s opinion on the matter. Then, they will respond to the complaint.

“We will not lie down and die on this,” said Douglass, a resident of Boulder City for almost 32 years. “We will respond. This is the people’s right to vote.”

Defendant Norbert Kastl denied circulating petitions in the city and said he didn’t realize what he was signing at the time.

Boulder City Councilman Travis Chandler, who helped gather signatures for the ballot initiatives, said he thinks the complaint filed by the city disenfranchises Boulder City voters.

“The council had an opportunity to put all these questions on the ballot months ago,” Chandler said. “Now, they’re fighting it because they simply never want the people to vote on it.”

The City Council will discuss the complaint filing at its Aug. 10 meeting in a special closed session, allowed by Nevada law for discussions pertaining to legal matters.

After the discussion, Olsen said, the City Council can motion for him to drop the lawsuit or ratify the action and allow him to continue the matter. If the council doesn’t make any motion, Olsen said, he will continue moving forward with the case.

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