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Las Vegas councilman denies truck damage as recall effort heats up

Updated February 8, 2019 - 7:46 pm

The contentious recall effort against Las Vegas Councilman Steve Seroka ratcheted up this week with the policymaker rejecting claims he caused property damage to an anti-Seroka billboard truck, then leveling his prime opponent as “a shady, rogue union boss.”

Tommy White, the business manager for Laborers Local 872 and a spokesman for the recall initiative, had a terse retort on Friday: “Hey, bring it on.”

Seroka is accused on Feb. 1 of approaching a parked “Stop Seroka” truck outside Costco in Summerlin, part of Ward 2, which he represents, hollering profanities to demand it be moved and then pounding the driver’s window, leaving it inoperable.

The councilman said this week that he couldn’t have been there because he was at a USO dinner that evening 20 miles away. Two people who were there confirmed his presence, although they were not sure if he stayed the whole time.

“I think this story that they’re fabricating about Costco characterizes their whole recall effort in that it is 100 percent based on lies,” Seroka said.

But the alleged Seroka blowup is being readily employed by recall supporters as the latest push to brand him as unfit to be in City Hall. It comes against the backdrop of a concurrent campaign by former Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman — who plans to run in two years regardless — to challenge Seroka in a special election if a time-restricted signature-gathering effort is successful.

“Whether he’s having outbursts or not, he’s not representing the constituents of Ward 2,” Seaman said, separating herself from Seroka as the lone defender of developer and private property rights.

Meanwhile, the labor union behind the charge to oust the councilman is planning two lawsuits related to his alleged role in causing vehicle damage and to also bankroll a “Recall Seroka” plane flyover during at least three days that began Friday afternoon.

Amid the barrage of ongoing attack advertising, the latest accusation to fly against the councilman — who has been under incessant fire for standing against Badlands golf course development — appears to have only escalated the tensions underlying the political front.

The incident

On Feb. 2, Metropolitan Police Department received a report that an individual the prior evening had approached a truck owned by Local 872 and started banging on a window, Metro spokesman Larry Hadfield said.

The 2006 Isuzu billboard truck — pictures show it illustrated anti-Seroka messaging including his face under a red circle-backslash — had a window knocked off track as result, according to the police report.

The victim believed the suspect to be Seroka, Hadfield said, although he is not identified as a suspect per the report. No citations or arrests have been made in connection with the incident.

“I wouldn’t play games like this because I’ve got my own reputation on the line,” White said, adding the union was in the process of securing surveillance video.

If the eyewitnesses were wrong, he urged any Seroka “lookalike” to come forward.

In a press release sent Wednesday to the Review-Journal, the laborers union said the incident occurred at 7:10 p.m. Feb. 1 and explicitly identified Seroka as the suspect, relying on the eyewitness accounts of two union laborers inside the truck cab and a Costco gas attendant, who in a written statement, said the suspect was “a man appearing to be Councilman Seroka.”

But Seroka on Thursday refuted the claim, saying he hadn’t been in that parking lot for months. Plus, as a USO board member, he was attending a volunteer appreciation and awards dinner at Nellis Air Force Base, which ran from 6 to after 9 p.m. and where at least 100 people saw him.

“What they’re doing with all of this effort, they’re like alchemists,” Seroka said. “They’re trying to turn coal into gold, they’re trying to turn black into white, night into day.

“It’s all led by a shady, rogue union boss.”

Fierce campaign

Only two years ago, the laborers union backed Seroka’s neophyte council bid, giving the then-candidate $5,000, campaign finance records show.

But since then, spurred by Seroka’s opposition to a mega-developer’s plan to build homes on a defunct golf course, and feeling spurned by other Seroka moves they perceive as anti-development, the union has pivoted to perhaps become his biggest adversary.

Seroka said he remains confident that informed voters won’t be swayed. But he has too, at times, struggled to determine whether to fight back. He is leery that responses may only dignify tactics with which he disagrees and embolden “all this nonsense,” that includes flyers, neighborhood canvassing and, most recently, airplane banners. But he also said he cannot stand idle while lies are published.

“You never leave a negative out there, it’s kind of PR 101,” said Liz Trosper, the principal of public relations firm Trosper Communications, which has worked for years on campaigns of local candidates including Henderson Mayor Debra March.

The door-to-door campaign since December to collect 1,850 signatures from Ward 2 voters by March 11 — specifically only those who cast ballots in the 2017 general election — has ruffled some.

“It all started pretty quickly and pretty aggressively,” said Richard Hunter, a freelance social media director, who lives in Summerlin and voted for Seroka but doesn’t consider himself a “die-hard ally.”

Hunter said he has had a robocall, five visits — most from out-of-state cause-marketers being used by the union — and five different flyers left at his place when he was not home. The pitch is two-fold: Recall Seroka and — “hey, good news, we’ve got a solution” — choose Seaman in his place.

While his interactions with signature-gatherers have not been contentious, he said, “I don’t like this deceptive marketing of politics.”

White acknowledged using a third party, but said more of the effort was being carried by union volunteers who “have ran into some really nasty voters, themselves.”

No signatures have been turned into the City Clerk’s Office as of this week, but White said he was “very confident” that signature collection would exceed the required amount.

He also doubted that Seroka, despite his relatively moderate counteroffensive, was not rattled by the union-backed campaign.

“I don’t think he’s telling you the truth because he had (neighborhood) walkers out there over three weeks ago,” White said. “So I think he’s playing like he’s taking it lightly, but I don’t think he’s taking it lightly.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Mike Shoro contributed to this report.

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