Ross foes say they can force recall vote

Opponents of Las Vegas Ward 6 City Councilman Steve Ross say they have collected more than enough signatures to force a recall election that could oust the man they accuse of everything from bad manners to bad ethics.

Recall supporter Marc Newman said Tuesday, one day ahead of a deadline to deliver a recall petition to the city clerk, that he had 1,139 signatures, 55 more than the minimum number needed.

"I’m going to try to get as many signatures as I can until I can’t get them anymore," Newman said. "I want to get as many as I can over the margin."

Newman alleges Ross’ failure to secure a zoning waiver for a local car dealer is the reason that business closed Dec. 24, 2010, and put about 30 people out of work.

Newman and other recall backers accuse Ross of breaking a promise to return money from a City Council pay raise and say his vote as a member of the Regional Transportation Commission for a bus contract to a company that didn’t deliver the lowest bid is a potential $50 million waste.

The contract hasn’t been executed because the RTC is at a stalemate, with four members supporting the low bid by First Transit and Ross and three others supporting a higher bid by current provider Veolia.

Ross recall supporters also say the councilman didn’t respond to letters and calls from one of the workers who lost her job at the car dealership, which they say shows he doesn’t care about residents.

A pro-recall website mentions Ross’ 2009 run-in with the Nevada Commission on Ethics, which ruled the councilman should have disclosed a conflict of interest between his then-job as a union official and his vote in favor of a new city hall building.

"This isn’t exactly the kind of thing you do for taxpayers if you care about their jobs," said Mark Fierro, a Las Vegas communications consultant and recall supporter.

But with just hours until the deadline for Newman to deliver the signatures to City Hall, Ross and his backers were formulating their own strategy to fight off the first recall of a city politician since 2005, when voters ousted Ward 1 Councilwoman Janet Moncrief midway through her first term.

Ross’ supporters have filed complaints with the secretary of state alleging car dealer Joe Scala, a driving force behind the recall and owner of the Courtesy auto dealerships, didn’t file proper campaign finance paperwork.

Scala sought and was refused Ross’ support for a waiver to maintain his dealership in the Centennial Hills auto mall though he no longer held his franchise affiliation with Mazda. An affiliation with a manufacturer is a condition to operate a business in the plaza.

And recall opponents are reminding anyone who will listen that voters spoke when they elected Ross in 2009 and will get their chance to vote again in about 18 months, which they say means efforts to oust the councilman early violates the will of the electorate.

"The recall effort essentially removes from the public the ability to elect their council member," said Matt Griffin, a former deputy secretary of state for elections who moved to private practice and filed the anti-recall complaints on behalf of Ross. "It is an unfortunate method, given that this revolves around Joe Scala’s inability to get favorable treatment from the councilman."

Griffin was referring to the possibility that if Ross were recalled and no candidates were on the ballot to replace him, the City Council could appoint someone to fill the vacancy.

Griffin and other Ross backers are working to see that the process never gets to that point.

They have filed complaints alleging that during Ross’ failed mayoral campaign, Scala failed to file proper paperwork with the secretary of state to disclose that he paid to air anti-Ross television ads by the group Past Employees of Courtesy.

Ross supporters also have accused Fierro and Scala’s dealerships of failing to disclose support for the recall effort.

In addition, Ross backers say they are sitting on a stack of statements from Ward 6 voters who claim to have been lied to or misled by recall signature gatherers, which could be a violation of election law.

"I don’t want to spread the lies they are spreading," Ross spokesman Steve Redlinger said when asked what specific misinformation was distributed. "All we can say definitively is what they told us. We will represent those affidavits in due time."

If the signatures are deemed legitimate after scrutiny by the city clerk, the Clark County registrar of voters and the secretary of state, an election to determine whether Ross should be recalled could be held in Ward 6 by mid-November.

City Clerk Beverly Bridges said that if an election is called, potential replacement candidates could gain access to the ballot by filing valid nominating petitions until 20 days before the vote.

Ward 6 is in northwest Las Vegas, mostly west of U.S. Highway 95 and north of Cheyenne Avenue until Interstate 215. It then widens to both sides of U.S. 95 heading north roughly to Kyle Canyon Road.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@review or 702-229-6435.

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