Updated May 25, 2023 - 3:47 pm
North Las Vegas city officials met with law enforcement this week to discuss concerns that state Sen. Dina Neal may have used campaign funds to pay off a $20,000 lien on her home, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has learned.
Neal vigorously denied the allegation on Wednesday, saying she refinanced her house with her own money.
“I have never misused my campaign funds,” she told the Review-Journal.
According to an official with knowledge of the matter, the meeting with law enforcement took place after the news organization requested public records from the city. The records revealed years of emails from Neal, some of which ask staff to forgive first-time Homebuyer Assistance Program loans. In at least two of those emails, Neal did not reveal that she had that type of loan.
The public documents include an April 2021 letter demanding that Neal repay the city. The city provided a copy of the loan payoff check it received from a title insurance company, dated May 19 of that year, and records show it was deposited May 25.
On May 24, Neal charged her campaign $20,499 for Zoom expenses, according to a campaign finance report she filed with the state for that year.
‘It was a clerical error’
Neal’s attorney, Bradley Schrager, called it an “obvious” typo. The report shows that Neal has numerous monthly Zoom charges of $204.99, and on Thursday, Neal provided the Review-Journal a receipt that shows a Zoom charge from May 24, 2021, in that amount.
The receipt “shows it was a clerical error,” Neal wrote in an email to the newspaper.
Later in the email she stated, “The lender paid off the down payment assistance from my equity in my house. That is how refinance works.”
Neal’s campaign expenses for that year totaled more than $65,000.
It is a crime to use campaign funds for personal expenses, and at least two Nevada lawmakers have been convicted of the offense in recent years.
The meeting between North Las Vegas and law enforcement focused on “the findings from the public records request of the city lien and the unusual charge found in Neal’s campaign expense report,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
The source would not disclose what agency the city met with or who initiated the meetings.
Neal, D-North Las Vegas, has been in the state Senate since 2020 and previously served 10 years in the Assembly. In a phone interview Wednesday, she adamantly denied wrongdoing and said the city was acting in bad faith.
“North Las Vegas has no reason to come for me,” Neal said. “Why don’t you ask them why they’re coming for me in the first place? Because of Windsor Park?”
Neal is backing a bill in the Legislature that would require the city to pay $20 million to relocate Windsor Park families, whose homes were built over an aquifer that is slowly sinking.
Tensions have grown between Neal and the city during this session. This month, Neal accused city officials of lying about their plan to purchase the land where Texas Station once sat.
Mayor declined to comment
City spokeswoman Kathleen Richards declined to comment for this story. So did Mayor Pamela Goynes-Brown and City Councilman Isaac Barron. Other council members could not be reached for comment.
Neal said the news about the law enforcement meeting is part of an ongoing “smear campaign.”
Earlier this month, the Review-Journal reported that she is the subject of a state investigation after a college professor claimed she pressured him to steer $20,000 in federal funds for local businesses to her friend, North Las Vegas police officer Donavan McIntosh.
McIntosh has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city.
College of Southern Nevada business professor Kevin Raiford, who filed a complaint, said he was ousted from the multimillion-dollar, tax-funded NV Grow grant program last year after he refused to award the money Neal requested. Raiford said the funding is meant for companies that meet strict financial requirements.
Neal called Raiford’s allegations against her “libelous” and a “red herring” and later issued a statement asserting that she has always conducted herself ethically.
In his complaint, Raiford wrote that Neal wanted to use the money to repay a loan she had given McIntosh to start his clothing business.
In Spring 2021, Neal was refinancing her home, according to city documents obtained by the Review-Journal through its public records request. She bought the house in 2010 through the Homebuyer Assistance Program and had to pay back the city in order to do so.
Since Neal had bought her house, the terms of the program had changed to decrease the loan amount and allow forgiveness for new loans, but those changes were not retroactive.
After being told the new terms did not apply to her, Neal wrote Rick Damian, the city’s manager of housing and neighborhood services, in an email dated July 3, 2017: “I promise I am going to find a way to remedy this — because that is not right and it is a disservice to me.”