Lawsuit threatened in Las Vegas Ward 3 race

The negative rhetoric in the Las Vegas Ward 3 City Council race has gotten bad enough that one of the candidates is threatening the other with a defamation lawsuit.

Lawyers representing candidate Bob Coffin sent notifications Friday to the campaign of his opponent, Adriana Martinez, that Coffin intends to “file suit for defamation in Clark County District Court, naming you as defendant” if the campaign does not stop the “false and defamatory statements you have made regarding Mr. Coffin’s position on legalized prostitution and business dealings with UNLV.”

“We’ve taken it long enough,” Coffin said Friday night. “Upon the advice of counsel, we decided to fight back.”

Lauren Harmon, Martinez’s campaign manager, called the lawsuit threat “laughable” and “desperate.”

“He’s terrified that he will lose this race and be out of elective office for the first time in almost three decades,” she said in a statement. Coffin served in the state Legislature from 1983 to 2010, when term limits prevented him from seeking re-election.

“If Coffin were actually out there pounding the pavement, he’d know that Ward 3 families don’t want brothels in their neighborhoods and pedophiles in their parks,” Harmon said.

Coffin said the race is “probably close,” but he said the lawsuit would continue no matter what.

“My business life has to continue one way or another,” he said. “She’s already rung the bell. You can’t unring the bell from the damage that you’ve done.”

Martinez’s campaign mailers have referred to a 2009 Las Vegas Sun story that was headlined “Tax brothels, consider legalizing prostitution in Las Vegas.” Coffin, then a state senator, had proposed a tax on legal brothels and said he would listen to proponents of legalizing prostitution in Nevada’s urban areas. He said he did not support doing so, though, and the Sun ran a correction stating that the headline “mischaracterized state Sen. Bob Coffin’s stance.”

In a debate this year, he said that “pedophiles certainly have rights,” referring to the civil rights accorded all citizens. Martinez’s mailers have bashed him for that statement.

She also has criticized Coffin for a 1997 transaction in which he sold Union Pacific Railroad documents to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The railroad had contacted him in 1989 to discuss a presentation to the Clark County Commission on closing the railroad’s Las Vegas yard.

Coffin, who is in the rare book and document business, asked whether the company had records about Las Vegas, and was allowed access to a dilapidated storeroom in Los Angeles to salvage documents that were scheduled for disposal. He restored the documents, and the university bought them for its library’s special collection using donated funds, an arrangement that was approved by the Nevada Ethics Commission.

The letter to Martinez, from attorney Matthew M. Griffin, asks for the statements about Coffin to be retracted.

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