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Imlay confirmed as new Clark County public defender

The polarizing appointment of Darin Imlay to head the public defender’s office was confirmed Tuesday by the Clark County Commission, which acknowledged limitations in the selection process but expressed optimism the veteran lawyer will champion necessary reforms in office.

“This one right here, this is a huge one for me,” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said about the decision to ratify Imlay’s appointment two weeks ago by County Manager Yolanda King. “We’re talking about indigent care, we’re talking about low income, we’re talking about communities of color.”

The lack of community involvement in Imlay’s recruitment, and concern for the neediest defendants including immigrants, drew at least a dozen detractors to commission chambers to call for the process to be reopened. The 22-year public defense attorney sought to assuage those worries, however, immediately after his appointment was solidified.

“I am committed to reaching out to the community,” he said, adding later: “Changes absolutely need to be made.”

Commissioners are hopeful that Imlay can help fix a “broken” public defender’s office they say is marred by low morale. Public defenders who work with him vouched for his ability to turn around the department Tuesday.

King said that town halls with office employees were instrumental to tapping the most qualified candidate to replace Public Defender Phil Kohn, who announced his retirement in August after 14 years amid an internal probe that found he behaved inappropriately with women working in his office.

But Franny Forsman, a former federal public defender for the state who was on the selection committee, told commissioners that the process had devolved into a “popularity pool” and the committee’s work had effectively been “disregarded.”

Airport name change

In two weeks, the Clark County Commission will consider renaming McCarran International Airport after former U.S. Senate leader Harry Reid, a suggestion that even if that proposal never takes off, “McCarran” must be stripped from Nevada’s busiest airport.

“That needs to be, I think, once piece of the focus because the gentleman was not a gentleman,” Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said on Tuesday, referring to the airport’s namesake, late U.S. Sen. Pat McCarran.

McCarran had been criticized by Reid and others as racist and anti-Semitic.

At the commission’s request, airport director Rosemary Vassiliadis provided an overview of the process for renaming the airport, saying that the Federal Aviation Administration would ultimately have full discretion over whether it would happen and that she would request a name change be bankrolled by private donations.

Two weeks ago, Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak announced he would seek to honor Reid by renaming McCarran airport after him before the end of the year. However, it would appear commissioners now believe that being flexible with the name change may make it easier to complete.

Other options could include Las Vegas International Airport, while potentially naming the airport planned in the Ivanpah Valley after Reid.

Mesquite judge deal reached

The Clark County Commission approved a deal with the city of Mesquite to allow an elected county judge to preside over the city’s municipal court.

The move keeps a long-standing, informal agreement in place, but follows a new county policy that called for such a deal to be inked by written agreement before Jan. 7.

A similar agreement with Boulder City still must come before the Commission to prevent Boulder City from losing their only municipal judge.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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