Ads may violate election law
No organization by the name Concerned Citizens of Douglas County is registered with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, which may be a violation of Nevada election law. Under state law any group advocating for a position that has expenditures of $1,500 or more is required to file with the state.
The Secretary of State’s Office confirmed they’ve received a complaint about the advertisements.
“We are still in the fact-gathering phase of that investigation, so no outcome on that yet,” Secretary of State’s Office spokeswoman Jennifer Russell said.
Besides the advertisements and supporting documentation, the organization’s listed web site at http://www.taxpayerstrikeforce.com has material supporting redevelopment agency No. 2. Another organization dubbed the Douglas County Taxpayer Strikeforce does not support redevelopment and was formed by Commissioner Dave Nelson in 2017.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office neither group is registered as a political action committee.
Under Nevada law, any group that makes expenditures designed to affect the outcome of any election must register as a political action committee. Committees also include any group whose purpose is to influence an election that has contributions or expenditures of more than $1,500 in an election year. An exception to the rule would be if the ads were paid for solely by an individual.
Nelson and Commissioner John Engels have been vehement opponents of the redevelopment agency, established in 2016 to help pay for an events center at Stateline.
Engels actively campaigned against the district. A heated meeting on redevelopment at Stateline resulted in an altercation between Engels and Commission Chairman Barry Penzel in a back room on May 16, which resulted in an injury to Engels.
Both men claimed the other was the aggressor and an investigation by the Carson City District Attorney’s Office determined in July that there was no way to independently determine what happened. Engels said he would file a complaint with the FBI.
A petition drive has been filed with both the clerk’s office and the Secretary of State to distribute a petition to put redevelopment on the general election ballot, where voters could decide its fate.
The organization distributing the petition is headed up by Douglas County Audit Committee Chairman Dave Maxwell, who was an active speaker against redevelopment during Engels’ campaign.
Approved by county commissioners in 2016, the redevelopment area was designed to help pay for an events center in Stateline.
A key revenue source for the redevelopment area will be Tahoe Beach Club, which is building $1 million condos on the site of the old Tahoe Shores Mobile Home Park.
The redevelopment area is anticipated to raise $113 million over its 30-year lifespan. Only a fraction of that will go to the center with estimates around $25-$30 million. The redevelopment agency has only collected about $2 million so far. Should it be dissolved, the money that would have gone to redevelopment would be distributed among taxing districts, with about half of that funding going to the county.
The petition being distributed claims that redevelopment money will pay for a majority of the center, however proponents say that isn’t true.
Earlier this year, the Nevada Legislature approved a $5 a room night tax that will raise another $55 million for the center. That’s more than half of the estimated $90 million cost of the center.
Organizers of the effort to put the redevelopment district on the ballot have six months to gather 2,613 signatures.
Nelson is seeking re-election and is supporting the candidacies of Walt Nowosad and Mark Gardner. Filing is in March. It’s likely they will appear on the Republican primary ballot in June.
Because of the significant majority of Douglas County voters are registered Republican that primary will resolve the issue.
Commissioners Larry Walsh and Penzel have yet to announce they’re seeking re-election.
Both commissioners have voted in favor of preserving the redevelopment district despite political pressure from former supporters.