Michele Fiore’s move to Nye County in November has raised questions about the legitimacy of her last votes on the Las Vegas City Council and her appointment to the Pahrump Justice Court bench.
Last week, Ward 6 residents who Fiore used to represent filed a complaint with the city of Las Vegas, questioning her residency status during her last meeting as a councilwoman.
According to Nevada statute, “the mayor or any councilman automatically forfeits the remainder of his term of office and that office becomes vacant if he ceases to be a resident of the city or of the ward which he represents, as the case may be.”
Fiore told Nye County commissioners in December that she rented a house in Pahrump on Nov. 15, a day before the last City Council meeting.
A second complaint filed by a candidate passed on for the justice of the peace position alleged that Fiore did not meet the minimum residency requirement when she applied to be a judge. The email complaint, shared with the Review-Journal, was addressed to Nye County officials and Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office.
“There’s no sour grapes,” William Hockstedler said Tuesday. “It’s nothing personal whatsoever. I’m sure she’s a fine person.”
Las Vegas residency
The four Skye Canyon and Providence residents who signed the first complaint wrote that Fiore’s move to rural Nevada made her ineligible to serve on the City Council on Nov. 16, which featured a split-vote decision on a contentious agenda item.
Fiore had brought forward the item to discuss approval of land-use entitlements of 2½ acres on Grand Teton Drive and Hualapai Way for a Green Valley Grocery location.
While the city’s planning commission had previously voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project, residents of the neighborhood overwhelmingly spoke against it during public comment.
“No matter how much we change … it’s never going to be enough,” Fiore said before motioning for a vote to approve the project, which passed with a 4-to-3 vote.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Councilmen Stavros Anthony and Cedric Crear voted against the project.
Fiore and Anthony, who was elected Nevada’s lieutenant governor and sworn into office Tuesday, were replaced the next meeting by newly elected Councilwomen Nancy Brune and Francis Allen-Palenske.
Fiore forfeited re-election to the Las Vegas City Council when she unsuccessfully ran for state treasurer. She then filed to become a judge in Pahrump.
In a Dec. 20 pitch to the Nye County commissioners, which was tasked with filling the court seat, Fiore disclosed that she had bought a house there last summer, rented another on Nov. 15 and was registered to vote in Nye County as of “mid-November.”
Fiore, who did not return Review-Journal calls seeking comment, is being represented by Sigal Chattah, a lawyer and failed attorney general candidate during November’s midterm election.
Chattah wrote City Attorney Bryan Scott on Tuesday in an attempt to clarify the timeline of Fiore’s change of address.
Fiore, according to the letter obtained by the Review-Journal, only signed a check on Nov. 15 “to hold the property” and did not “physically occupy that property till Nov 17th.”
“My client lives in Pahrump full-time and drives back and forth to care for her mom a couple of days a week,” the letter said.
Nye County residency
The second complaint came from Hockstedler, a Nevada Republican who ran for Congress and was vying for a position in the Pahrump court.
“We as residents and applicants for the newly appointed Justice of the Peace position are filing this complaint against Michele Fiore and the issue of her legitimacy as a qualified candidate to be considered for the Justice of the Peace position,” the complaint said.
At issue is a minimum residency requirement to run for elected office in Nevada, including justice of the peace positions.
In a 2017 legal opinion, then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt outlined the requirements.
They include that a candidate must be a registered voter in the jurisdiction and live there for at least 30 days before the last filing date.
That filing date in Pahrump was Dec. 8, Hockstedler wrote, making Fiore’s mid-November move to Pahrump fall short of the residency requirement.
Reached for comment, the state attorney general’s office said it had received the complaint, “but we can give no further comment at this time.”
A Nye County spokesperson wrote: “We have been apprised of the claim and are working with legal counsel to determine if there is any merit present” to the complaint.
Hockstedler said he faults the process and a “lack of judgment” from Nye County commissioners for not verifying Fiore’s residency requirements before appointing her.
“Not complying,” he said, “is the first step of malfeasance on the parts of the commissioners.”
Hockstedler said that Fiore not following the guidelines is disqualifying and that he hopes that Ford’s office takes action to restart the selection process.
Asked if he would nominate himself again, he said he would consider it.