The secret ballots used to help fill a vacancy on the Henderson City Council won’t be secret much longer.
City Council members have agreed to release their choices Tuesday night, just before Debra March will be sworn in as the new representative for Ward 2.
Though city officials dispute claims that the secret ballots violated Nevada’s open meeting law, Henderson City Attorney Elizabeth Quillin said the details of how each council member voted will be released “out of an abundance of caution.”
The Review-Journal had filed a complaint with the Nevada attorney general’s office over the council’s appointment process.
Quillin said the city intends to contest the complaint. The ballot information is being released, she said, to avoid possible legal problems should March’s appointment be cast in doubt.
During a special meeting July 8, council members voted unanimously to appoint March to the Ward 2 seat left vacant when long-time councilman Andy Hafen was elected mayor.
The UNLV administrator and former Henderson planning commissioner was picked from a field of 14 candidates that was narrowed to six using a secret nominating process. Council members ranked the finalists using secret ballots.
Henderson City Clerk Monica Simmons said no appointment process is spelled out in state law or the city’s charter, so the city turned to a process laid out in the book of parliamentary procedure known as Robert’s Rules of Order.
Quillin said the public will have full access to the process, right down to the application packets submitted by the council candidates and all of the letters written for and against each of them.
“This is probably the best process I’ve seen, and I’ve been in this business for 20 years,” she said.
Review-Journal Editor Thomas Mitchell said when council members used secret ballots to appoint a new member, they violated the open meeting law, plain and simple.
“They ought to go back and do it all again, and they ought to have their wrists slapped in some way,” he said.
Tuesday’s City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.
One piece of the puzzle in now known: Hafen and City Councilwoman Gerri Schroder each nominated March and retired police-officer-turned-political-consultant Stan Olsen.
Councilwoman Kathleen Boutin said Friday that she nominated Roland Sansone, a prominent developer, and Michael Lamoreaux, director for a convention and exhibition company.
Councilman Steve Kirk said he nominated former Sun City Anthem Community Association President Favil West and current Las Vegas police officer Thomas Wagner, who came within 85 votes of upsetting Hafen in Ward 2 two years ago.
The attorney general’s office was reviewing the Review-Journal’s open meeting law complaint. Spokeswoman Edie Cartwright said the agency is required to deliver an opinion on the complaint within 120 days of the July 8 City Council meeting.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.