May 14, 2023 - 9:00 pm
Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones may have written some of the most expensive text messages in history.
Last month, a federal magistrate judge found Mr. Jones lied about deleting text messages related to a long-running dispute with developer James Rhodes. Mr. Rhodes has long wanted to build homes on Blue Diamond Hill, which is near Red Rock Canyon. He’s been continually stymied by county officials.
Leading the opposition was a group called Save Red Rock. Before joining the commission, Mr. Jones served as its lawyer. A major focus of his campaign was his opposition to Mr. Rhodes’ project. After Mr. Jones was elected, a County Commission vote essentially doomed the development. Mr. Rhodes’ company then sued. Damages — the liability of Clark County taxpayers — could top $1 billion if the government deprived the developer of the legal use of his land.
Local governments wield significant power, but they can’t arbitrarily change the rules to stop projects opposed by special interests. That’s an affront to property rights. In his effort to challenge the county’s actions, Mr. Rhodes and his legal team sought Mr. Jones’ text messages.
But as U.S. Magistrate Judge Elayna Youchah found, Mr. Jones had deleted them shortly after opposing the project in a key vote.
“The court can find no logical — even if unlikely — explanation for what happened to Mr. Jones’ texts other than the disappointing explanation that Mr. Jones deleted his texts worried the disclosure would yield a negative or unfavorable outcome for him,” she wrote.
More than that, she blasted him for words under oath that were “not out-and-out misrepresentations of the truth, but also were not truthful.”
From other sources, Mr. Rhodes’ lawyers have laid out why Mr. Jones may have deleted his messages. Shortly before the 2018 election, Mr. Jones offered Steve Sisolak, then chair of the commission and gubernatorial candidate, “a deal — if Sisolak would commit to vote against the waiver of Condition 2 sought by Gypsum, SRR would send an email blast to its entire email list providing this information (and) publish support for Sisolak on social media,” the judge wrote.
The Nevada State Bar is investigating Mr. Jones. A criminal investigation may be warranted as well. If the depths to which he stooped during his last campaign didn’t make it obvious, his character issues are now crystal clear. It’s unlikely he’ll resign. Let’s hope his constituents eventually take matters into their own hands.
The commission also needs to resolve this lawsuit. Las Vegas taxpayers, on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in the Badlands golf course fiasco, are no longer the only ones with a fiscal sword of Damocles hanging over their heads thanks to local politicians disregarding property rights.