A committee to recall embattled North Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge Catherine Ramsey turned in more than 2,700 petition signatures Thursday at City Hall.
To force the judge into a special recall election, the group will need 1,984 of those signatures to pass muster, meaning the city clerk verifies that the signers voted in the 2011 election when Ramsey was elected.
David Thomas, the political consultant backing the petition, said he is confident the petition will be approved and is hoping the judge will resign and avoid further wasting taxpayer funds.
The recall committee, which launched in March, argues the judge should be booted for misappropriating city funds to pay for a private lawsuit, asking employees to perform personal errands on city time, and reducing defendants’ sentences arbitrarily, causing the city to lose out on revenue it would have otherwise gained from the cases, according to a news release.
Ramsey has contended, through a statement by her attorney, that the recall is politically motivated.
City spokesman Mitch Fox has said the city is not behind the recall. Thomas said that the effort is a citizens’ effort and no city or elected officials are involved.
The news conference announcing that the group had the needed signatures was held inside City Hall outside the council chambers. Thomas said that the spot was chosen for the media’s convenience and the committee just picked a location where any group would be able to hold a quick news conference. A badge is required to gain access to that area of City Hall.
One allegation previously mentioned as to why the judge should be removed was absent from the committee’s latest release: that Ramsey had taken off an inordinate number of days. According to the city’s count, Ramsey has taken off 68 days. Thomas said the committee is reviewing the data.
Ethics complaints filed in March echo the judge’s position that the city is trying to oust her. The formal complaints to the Nevada Commission on Ethics were filed by two longtime city human resources employees who were laid off last week.
According to the complaints, North Las Vegas Chief of Staff Ryann Juden bragged about scripting a City Council meeting in which Mayor John Lee called Ramsey’s alleged excessive absences “immoral.”
The mayor’s statement was brought up repeatedly in the recall effort against the judge and was used in the recall’s initial news release.
According to the complaint, Juden and Lee had a meeting with Ramsey in which Juden told her he could “make a pamphlet of half-truths, and those stupid low-income citizens wouldn’t know what to believe.”
Thomas derided Ramsey for appearing to only be bringing the issue to the news media’s attention now. The Review-Journal reported when the recall effort was launched that her attorney said in a statement that the city failed to disclose that many of the judge’s absences were to attend city events and mandatory conferences.
Former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, one of two attorneys representing the recall committee, said that Ramsey’s days off were just one of several issues involving the judge.
Thomas highlighted a lengthy judicial ethics complaint against the judge that is posted on the recall’s website. The complaint, filed by the city in 2014, accuses the judge of abusing the city credit card to fight a lawsuit against her as well as keeping prosecutors out of the loop on their own cases.
Ramsey is one of two Municipal Court judges in North Las Vegas, and this is her first term. The court handles small civil and criminal matters, and the judges are elected at-large to six-year terms.
The relationship between the city and its courts has been rocky lately. The two judges have united to raise concerns about separation of powers, a tradition in American government of keeping the executive branch — in this case City Hall — and the judicial branch — in this case the Municipal Court — separate.
The recall effort is chaired by city resident Bob Borgersen. Borgersen said the fact that the committee got the signatures it needed — and more — before its June 9 deadline speaks volumes.
It’s unclear how much money went into the recall and who the funds came from.
When the recall was launched, Thomas estimated it would take $25,000 to get the needed signatures. Thomas said at the news conference that they did not have a contributor list with him but that he would provide it.
Thomas estimated that he personally was the recall’s biggest contributor, putting in $5,000. The rest, he said, mainly came from city employees.
North Las Vegas Police Officers Association President Michael Yarter has said his organization put $10,000 toward the recall.
There have been three unsuccessful judicial recall efforts in Nevada since 2003 that submitted signatures, according to Nevada secretary of state spokeswoman Catherine Lu.
Thomas said a judge has never been recalled in Nevada.
Behind the recall effort is a powerful political team. Thomas is known for running judicial campaigns in Clark County, so much so that he has got the nickname “Judge Maker.”
Miller said he took the job with the recall because of his grandmother, who has called North Las Vegas home for 60 years.
His grandmother was the first call he made when the job came up and she said, “You gotta do it; that judge has got to be removed!” Miller said.
With Miller, the committee has also retained well-known attorney Dominic Gentile, according to the release.
Contact Bethany Barnes at email@example.com or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes.