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Vegas city attorney says Goynes, Truesdell must leave planning commission

Both of Las Vegas’ longest-tenured planning commissioners are now on their way out.

City Attorney Brad Jerbic on Wednesday decided Commissioners Ric Truesdell and Byron Goynes — who combined have served nearly 30 years on the planning panel — are termed out under an ordinance adopted in 2011.

The decision came only hours after the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that only Goynes had been asked to step down, despite being appointed a year after Truesdell. Both commissioners are set to leave the planning board once their terms expire in June.

The question of whether the pair should have even started those terms remains unclear, as do questions about why the city reversed course on its plan to depose Goynes but not his more senior commission colleague.

Jerbic, whose legal team has been studying the city’s appointment ordinance for nearly a week, did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman said Thursday that the city was not looking to play favorites on the planning board, but admitted there was some confusion on her part as to how long commissioners were allowed to serve.

Asked whether she had a hand in holding up Truesdell’s exit — perhaps with an eye toward stopping it — Goodman bristled, explaining “that’s not how I operate.”

Critics of the city’s move to ditch Goynes said it amounted to little more than political payback for his opposition to a January text amendment that would have cleared a path for the city to spend public money to host “a broader range of fee-based recreational activities” — not just soccer — at a future downtown stadium.

The amendment failed 6-1, with Truesdell casting the lone vote in favor of an item some commissioners viewed as a referendum on the stadium issue itself.

City Council members overruled that recommendation, only to see Major League Soccer shoot down the city’s plan to spend public money on a $200 million, 24,000-seat downtown soccer stadium less than a month later.

Truesdell, who was reappointed to his post by strong stadium supporter Goodman, said Tuesday he felt he wasn’t termed out of office, thanks to a pair of “breaks” he took to run for a City Council seats in 2004 and 2012.

Neither he nor Goynes, who said he was shocked to hear he had been run off the panel before Truesdell, returned requests for further comment.

Truesdell, a commercial real estate broker, faced questions late last year over his decision to vote on medical marijuana permit applications in which he or his company had a vested financial interest. He said he felt “very comfortable” casting those votes.

Both Truesdell and Goodman said many of the decisions that settled both commissioners’ fate rested with City Clerk Luann Holmes. Reached for comment Monday, Holmes said she didn’t know whether Truesdell qualified for another term. Emails obtained by the Review-Journal suggest Holmes took her marching orders from the city attorney’s office, which pointed her in the direction of the city’s term limit ordinance. She did not return requests for further comment.

Councilman Ricki Barlow, who sponsored the city’s term limit ordinance and twice reappointed Goynes, said as recently as Tuesday that he thought Truesdell would be allowed to stay on the commission because of two brief resignations from the panel. Barlow has rejected suggestions that stadium politics played any role in the city’s interpretation of his term limit ordinance.

He did not return requests for comment on Goynes’ potential replacement.

Mayor Goodman said she knew of some ongoing discussion surrounding Planning Commission appointments in the weeks leading up to Goynes’ and Truesdell’s dismissals, but couldn’t say for certain why those discussions hadn’t been held sooner after the city first passed its term limit ordinance.

She said she had been under the impression that state law allowed Truesdell to serve three full terms after his resignation from the planning board to launch a failed bid for Ward 2’s City Council seat in 2012. City officials could not immediately provide records documenting his break from the panel.

Goodman said she wasn’t aware the city had its own Planning Commission appointment cap until she opened the Review-Journal Wednesday morning.

Asked why Truesdell and Goynes were notified about the end of their terms separately, she speculated that the city might have just been handling the notification process “alphabetically.”

The two-term mayor said she hasn’t yet settled on Truesdell’s successor.

Thursday saw a third, unrelated planning board departure, with first-term Commissioner Richard Bonar announcing he will step down from the panel sometime this summer for health reasons.

Councilman Bob Beers confirmed that Bonar, his appointee to the commission, would be leaving his post to battle cancer.

Beers said Bonar, who helped build the country’s first master-planned community in Maryland, will leave behind big shoes to fill.

He declined to provide names of people he is considering for Bonar’s replacement.

The Planning Commission serves as a recommending board to the City Council, which has the final say on all city zoning and land use issues. Appointees to the seven-member planning board serve four-year terms and are paid $80 for every planning meeting they attend.

Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven.

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