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Neal at odds with her own city on abuse of power reporting bill

CARSON CITY — Sen. Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, butted heads with the city she represents during a committee meeting Tuesday over an amendment that would give the city’s charter committee the ability to report abuses of power to the Legislature.

During a meeting meant to address a $5 million budget for the Southern Nevada Enterprise Community Board, a North Las Vegas lobbyist said the city would now oppose the bill.

North Las Vegas lobbyist Leonardo Benavides said the city had concerns over the changes.

“While we understand what Sen. Neal is trying to do with the workplace development aspect of the bill, we are concerned with the other components of the bill touching our city charter and what they could mean for the city,” Benavides said during the opposition period following the bill presentation.

Senate Bill 246, sponsored by Neal, requires the city’s charter committee to report any abuse of power committed by the city council or city manager to the Legislature. It also subjects the city clerk to criminal and civil penalties for committing any violation of the law related to duties of the office, and prohibits the city council from “threatening, coercing or harassing” the city clerk to break the law.

Those provisions were added in mid-April. In its original form, the bill only required the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas to establish a workplace development program and required information about that program to be shared in various places.

Neal said the amendment related to the charter committee came in response to testimony made by members on another bill — Senate Bill 184, which would have added two seats to the city council and would have barred the mayor or any member of the council from getting legal advice from the city attorney on matters unrelated to city business.

“There was a lot of testimony that came up in both of those hearings of the charter committee members saying that they weren’t allowed to meet,” Neal said. “Basically what the bill does is guard that charter committee and allows them to meet.”

SB 184, sponsored by North Las Vegas Sen. Pat Spearman, died on Friday after it failed to meet a committee deadline.

The amendment also comes after the Culinary Union Local 226 was thwarted from putting a rent control initiative on the ballot in North Las Vegas in November because the city clerk ruled the measure didn’t gather enough signatures.

Neal’s presentation on the bill comes less than two weeks after the Review-Journal reported the senator is under investigation for allegedly pressuring a professor to direct federal dollars earmarked for local businesses towards businesses not authorized to receive those funds. Records show one of those businesses is owned by Neal’s friend.

In a statement, Neal said she acted appropriately.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.

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