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VICTOR JOECKS: Sisolak’s office pushed local officials to shut down Trump event, records show

King Steve Sisolak pushed Las Vegas officials to stop a recent Trump event. That’s according to emails and documents obtained from the city of Las Vegas via a public records request.

On July 30, the Trump campaign announced that it was holding an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally. Because Sisolak currently limits church gatherings to 50 people, the Ahern Hotel provided the venue.

Through his office, His Royal Highness worked to stop it. Scott Gilles, Sisolak’s senior advisor, emailed Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick to “flag” the meeting. “What would the next step be to ensure this event, which looks to likely violate current directives, is not allowed to proceed?” Gilles wrote.

Because the Ahern Hotel is in the city, Kirkpatrick sent that email to Carolyn Levering, the city’s emergency management administrator. The request by Sisolak’s office left city officials scrambling. Records show this was the first they had heard about the event.

Tom Perrigo, executive director of Community Development, eventually emailed that he “talked to Licensing and they are contacting the Licensee to remind them of the rules.” Perrigo then followed up with Levering.

“Please don’t share this email, but you can share that we’ve asked for a plan to show how the event will be conducted in compliance with the Governor’s order,” he wrote. Levering then emailed Kirkpatrick an update.

But the governor’s edicts allow most businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity, even if that means having more than 50 people in one place. An Ahern Hotel official said fire occupancy for the room was 1,605 people. That implies an 800-person cap.

Ahern officials did their best to comply with Sisolak’s guidelines, as they understood them. They provided a detailed safety plan, including enforced mask use, social distancing and a floor plan. But with the pressure coming from Carson City, city officials didn’t give Ahern the benefit of the doubt.

Eventually, Ahern employees told city officials the event was a “peaceful First Amendment right to worship and assemble protest.” Sisolak has frequently allowed protests to exceed his 50-person limit.

The event was scheduled to take place on Aug. 6. On the Tuesday prior, city officials issued a courtesy notice of a violation. On the day before the event, Robert Summerfield, the city’s planning director, told staff to “hold off on any more contact (with Ahern Hotel) on this until I hear back from CMO and CAO.” That’s the city manager’s office and the city attorney’s office.

Emails suggest those conversations took place over the phone or in person. By Thursday morning — the day of the event — something had changed. The city sent Ahern a notice demanding that it not hold the event. It threatened fines and to suspend its licenses.

The governor was also personally interested, according to his staff.

“Do you have any update on what’s happening with this event[?]” Gilles emailed on Thursday morning. “Chairwoman Kirkpatrick said CLV was on it. Governor keeps asking for updates.”

King Sisolak frequently complains about how busy he is dealing with the coronavirus. He somehow found the time to monitor a specific event put on by the opposing political party. That’s not all.

“Some of our council people and the Governor’s office is calling Metro inquiring why they are not shutting down the event,” Jorge Cervantes, chief operations and development officer, emailed on Thursday night. The event went forward with more than 500 people attending, according to organizers. City staff issued a $250 fine, which Ahern officials are now suing over.

This isn’t standard operating procedure.

“The Governor’s Office has no influence in the enforcement actions taken by local government, and it does not request that local governments shut particular events down,” Sisolak’s press office wrote in an email.

Gilles’ emails show that wasn’t true in this case. Through his office, Sisolak targeted this specific event and put pressure on local officials to shut it down. It’s logical to conclude that political considerations motivated these actions. That’s scary stuff.

The rule of law is supposed to prevent this. Unfortunately, that bedrock principle has given way in many areas to the royal decrees of King Sisolak, who now uses his power to target his political opponents.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 3 p.m. with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ Right Talk. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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