The attorney for the Board of Supervisors threw a monkey wrench into the anti-City Center petition Thursday, advising the board that he believes that it would be unenforceable because it violates state law.
Organizers say that they have thousands of voters' signatures to qualify the petition for the November ballot. If approved, it would bar the city from spending any public money to build the $28 million library/plaza complex envisioned in the City Center Project without a public vote.
But Deputy District Attorney Randal Munn told the board Thursday that the petition wouldn't comply with state law as interpreted in a 2004 Supreme Court decision involving the city of Mesquite, Nevada. That ruling said that, just as a local government board can't pass ordinances that conflict with state law, a ballot vote imposing an ordinance can't conflict with state law.
Nevada law, he said, gives the Board of Supervisors the authority to commit public funds to projects.
"As the board cannot pass an ordinance that is repugnant to NRS (Nevada Revised Statutes), neither can a petition," said Munn.
He said that court decision, combined with existing state law in NRS 266, would, in his opinion, render the petition unenforceable - even if the voters approved it in November.
Dennis Johnson, a candidate for supervisor and one of the founders of the petition drive, said that that issue was "one of the things we looked at before we even started."
"The general consensus was, no, there's no problem," he said.
Johnson also said that not following the will of the voters would be a bad move.
"The board, really in essence, would throw dirt in the face of the voters," he said.
Munn, however, said that the board would have the option of voluntarily following the rule if approved by voters.
"They could choose to bind themselves," he said of supervisors. That, however, would provide no guarantees in the future because, "they could not bind the next board."
The Supreme Court ruling came in the case Horne v. City of Mesquite. Voters there approved an ordinance barring the city from selling any real estate below market value. The court ruled that a violation of a law specifically allowing local governments to sell or otherwise dispose of property at less than market value in certain cases.
Munn said that the same logic applies in the case of the City Center petition.