Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen should not be removed from office for term limits because the person bringing the action lacks standing, according to a filing made last week with the Nevada Supreme Court.
A joint response filed by state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller argues that petitioner and former mayoral candidate Rick Workman fails to show “he has any direct or personal stake in the outcome” and cannot challenge Hafen’s position in office.
Workman, a city employee, received 37 percent of the vote in the 2013 mayoral primary. Hafen won with 55 percent, negating the need for a general election. In his May 21 filing to the Supreme Court, Workman does not appear to be making a claim to the office, only requesting to have Hafen removed. That leaves Workman without standing, the joint filing said.
Unless Workman makes a claim to the office, it is up to the attorney general’s office alone whether to have Hafen defend his standing in office, according to last week’s joint filing.
Workman’s request to the court to remove Hafen from office because of term-limit laws is too late, the joint filing said, because the candidate did not challenge the mayor’s standing before the 2013 election though “all of the facts necessary to bring a challenge were well known at the time of the election.”
Workman’s effort to remove Hafen from office began after the Supreme Court ruled Feb. 20 in Lorton v. Jones that term-limit provisions in state law mean that members of the Reno City Council who already have served 12 years under the restrictions cannot run for mayor.
A 1996 amendment to the Nevada Constitution capped term limits for state and local officials to elected office at 12 years. Hafen was first elected to the City Council in 1987 and was elected mayor in 2009.
Workman’s Reno-based attorney, Stephanie R. Rice, who represented George “Eddie” Lorton, sent a letter to Henderson City Attorney Josh Reid on March 19 asking Hafen to voluntarily step down from his position. In April, Rice filed requests to Cortez Masto and Miller to intervene. Cortez Masto rejected the request in a May 1 letter stating the Supreme Court ruling in the Lorton case “was not intended to apply retrospectively to unseat current office holders who were elected before the court’s ruling.”
In last week’s filing, the attorney general’s office elaborated on the position, saying the time had passed for Workman to challenge Hafen’s standing.
“(Workman) should not now be permitted to try to invalidate an election that occurred more than a year ago,” Senior Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson wrote in the joint filing.
Rice has not returned a request for comment.
Hafen’s attorney Todd L. Bice has until Tuesday to submit a response to Workman’s filing with the court. Workman then will have 15 days to answer.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3882. Follow him on Twitter: @KnightlyGrind.