The owners of the Badlands golf course in Las Vegas filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the city and Councilmen Steve Seroka and Bob Coffin, claiming bias and arguing city officials’ handling of plans to develop the course have violated their 14th Amendment rights.
The lawsuit argues Coffin and Seroka are prejudiced against the developer, and that the plans aren’t treated fairly during the council’s approval process.
“Although my clients cannot receive a fair hearing before the City Council, we are confident that the federal court, untainted by improper motives or influence, will take seriously the facts set forth in the complaint and ensure that my clients are protected from this abuse of government,” Attorney Mark Hutchison said in a statement.
Developer EHB Cos., helmed by CEO Yohan Lowie, has proposed multiple development plans to build single-family homes and condominiums on the 250-acre west Las Vegas golf course, which closed in late 2016.
The lawsuit claims Coffin is biased against Lowie in part due to Lowie’s “Israeli ethnicity and Jewish faith,” referencing a meeting where Coffin likened Lowie’s treatment of the opponents to his proposal to that of “unruly Palestinians.”
“He likes to make things up,” Coffin said of Lowie when contacted for comment on some of the complaint’s allegations.
Coffin said he had not seen the complaint. The city had not been served as of Tuesday morning, Public Affairs Manager Diana Paul said.
The developers allege Coffin and Seroka told city staff to “alter federal mail by checking the ‘I Oppose’ box on city of Las Vegas public hearing postcards” before they were sent to residents and after they were returned to the city.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Coffin said.
Seroka couldn’t be reached for comment.
The allegations against Coffin and Seroka also include ordering city staff to impose requirements for the applications meant to delay their trek through the city’s planning process and feeding staff “sound bites” before public hearings.
The 28-page federal lawsuit dubs those opponents as the “Queensridge Elite,” and claims Coffin and Seroka “conspired” with them to deprive the developers of “their property rights and constitutional rights of equal protection and due process.”
The plans have proved controversial among some residents who live in the Queensridge development the shuttered course weaves through, and multiple other lawsuits over the plans have been filed by both the developer and the opponents in Clark County District Court.
The lawsuit contends that Seroka, who represents the Queensridge area, launched a “direct attack” on the development plans by proposing a six-month city moratorium on accepting and processing plans, and calls him an advocate against the development.
The Badlands plans factored in heavily in last year’s Ward 2 City Council race where Seroka bested incumbent Bob Beers.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, punitive and other damages and attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. It joins a series of other Clark County District Court lawsuits over the development plans, including one that seeks millions of dollars of damages from the city.
The filing follows the Hutchison & Steffen law firm sending letters last month to Coffin and Seroka asking them to recuse themselves from voting on Badlands applications and threatening litigation. Both councilmen voted Feb. 21 to delay a pending set of development plans to the council’s May 16 meeting agenda.
“The city and the City Council have treated plaintiffs as a class of one, foisting upon them extraordinary requirements that have not been required of other similarly situated individuals or entities,” the lawsuit states.