Nevada is rife with elected officials and bureaucrats who treat the state public records law like a roll of Charmin. Add Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin to the disgracefully long list.
Mr. Coffin is named in a legal dispute that also involves fellow City Councilman Steve Seroka and a developer seeking to build on the old Badlands Golf Course. The issue has been a matter of contention for three years, as many residents of the tony Queensridge neighborhood — which surrounds the defunct links — have fought to block plans to fill part of the open space with additional housing.
Last week, attorneys for EHB Cos. CEO Yohan Lowie, who hopes to develop the property, asked a federal judge to prevent Mr. Coffin and Mr. Seroka from voting on an ordinance, set to be considered Oct. 15, related to the Badlands controversy. They allege the two councilmen are biased against Mr. Lowie and can’t give the matter a fair hearing.
The legal case is a Hail Mary. Members of the council have no obligation to be impartial. They’re supposed to have opinions, make decisions and cast votes. Absent criminal behavior, it should be up to their constituents, not a judge, to hold them accountable for their policy positions.
But Mr. Lowie’s court filings also reveal Mr. Coffin working overtime to ensure certain communications would not come out in the event of a public records request. “Please pass word to all your neighbors,” he wrote to one Queensridge resident. “In any event tell them to NOT use the city email address but call or write to our personal addresses. For now.” He also instructed residents not to include the word “Badlands” in their electronic communications, because any such email would likely be flagged in the event of a records search.
In fact, a unanimous Nevada Supreme Court decision issued in March addresses Mr. Coffin’s shenanigans. In a case involving the Lyon County Commission, the justices ruled elected officials can’t avoid scrutiny by conducting public business on their personal devices.
Mr. Coffin is no neophyte. Before joining the City Council in 2011, he served 28 years in the Legislature. He knows better. Accountability is essential to fostering trust between citizens and local government — the open records law provides the foundation for maintaining a healthy and robust democracy. Politicians and public employees who actively work to undermine these concepts do a grave disservice to those they serve.
During a 2017 discussion over disclosure of financial contribution information, Mr. Coffin told a local writer, “Transparency is a good thing.” Unfortunately, Mr. Coffin revealed his true colors when he thought nobody was watching.