Boulder City manager avoids punishment

A car registration scheme meant to save a few thousand dollars in taxes and fees won’t cost Vicki Mayes her six-figure salary as Boulder City Manager.

Despite calls from two City Council members to fire Mayes, the council took no action against her during a long and contentious special meeting Thursday morning.

At issue was an $83,000 sports car with Montana license plates that was photographed in Mayes’ parking spot at City Hall.

The car drew harsh criticism — and unwanted media attention — to Mayes, because she and her husband avoided paying approximately $8,500 in Nevada sales tax and registration fees by registering it under the name of a limited liability company in Montana.

Mayes said her husband, Denny, engineered the whole deal against her wishes, and she played no role in any of it. The car has since been registered in Nevada and all the proper payments made, she said.

Nevada law requires residents to register vehicles within 60 days and to pay state sales tax even if it is bought elsewhere. The matter was thoroughly hashed out Thursday in 3½ hours of debate and public input. In the end, the deeply divided council could not agree on a punishment, so there won’t be one.

The motion to fire Mayes was made by Councilwoman Linda Strickland, who said she hired her own private investigator to learn more about the Mayes’ car and how it was registered.

Strickland said she was most troubled by the way Mayes handled the situation after it hit the news, especially her decision to use city staff and letterhead to send out a statement to the media.

“I think what we’ve seen is some very, very bad judgment,” she said.

Councilman Travis Chandler seconded Strickland’s motion, but Mayor Roger Tobler and Councilmen Duncan McCoy and Cam Walker voted against it.

A subsequent motion to give Mayes a written reprimand also failed three votes to two, as did a final motion to verbally reprimand the city manager.

The audience was equally divided, with comments from both sides of the issue drawing applause.

Neal Siniakin, an outspoken critic of city government, dismissed the car registration as “cheap chiselling” and said what bothered him more was Mayes’ “lack of morality” after the scheme was uncovered.

One of Mayes’ supporters, Jane Rowland, suggested Boulder City should change its name to Salem. Then she urged the council to “get on to whatever’s next … and find another witch to burn.”

Mayes is Boulder City’s top administrator and highest paid employee, with an annual salary of $153,556 and a monthly car allowance of $450. She has worked for the city for 18 years, including the past six years as city manager.

She chalked up much of the controversy to what she called a “poor interview” she gave to a Las Vegas television reporter who confronted her last month after a council meeting that stretched past midnight. She apologized for that, but not for her husband’s actions.

Denny Mayes did not attend the meeting, but attorney and former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury spoke on his behalf. Woodbury said Denny Mayes formed the limited liability company on the advice of an attorney in Montana and believed what he was doing was perfectly legal. It turned out not to be, Woodbury said.

“He now realizes he made a stupid mistake. He takes full responsibility for his actions,” Woodbury said.

He added that Vicki Mayes strongly objected to her husband’s plans to register the car in Montana. After he did it anyway, she refused to drive the white Nissan GT-R or even ride in it.

She did end up driving the car to work a few times, but only because her own vehicle was unavailable, Woodbury said.

“We ask you not to visit the sins of the husband on the wife,” he said.

Several of his statements drew incredulous laughter from the audience, before Tobler admonished the standing-room-only crowd to quiet down.

McCoy said sitting through Thursday’s proceedings seemed like punishment enough for Mayes. “I think the lesson has been learned. I think we need to move on,” he said.

After the meeting, a teary-eyed Mayes exchanged hugs with several friends and supporters.

Then she declined comment.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@review
journal.com or 702-383-0350.

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