Court won’t reconsider Reno mayor term limit case

The Nevada Supreme Court will not be swayed to change its mind over term-out city council members running for mayor.

In an order filed Wednesday, justices declined to reconsider its previous ruling that said council members who have served 12 years on the Reno City Council are ineligible to run for mayor because of term limits imposed by voters in 1996.

“Rehearing denied,” the order said, without further written discussion.

In late February, the court’s 5-2 opinion knocked former Reno Councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza and current Councilman Dwight Dortch out of this year’s mayoral race after businessman and political newcomer Eddie Lorton filed a petition challenging their candidacy.

Sferrazza and Dortch were considered front-runners to succeed longtime Mayor Bob Cashell in the city’s first competitive mayoral race in 12 years.

But Lorton argued a constitutional amendment approved by voters was intended to stop “career politicians.”

Justices agreed, ruling that because the mayor and council members have similar duties and cast votes, council members who’ve had 12 years in office cannot run for mayor and serve on the same governing body.

But Sferrazza’s lawyer last week asked the court to reconsider its decision, arguing justices overlooked other precedent-setting election law cases that found when a law is ambiguous, the ultimate decision is up to voters.

The court rejected those arguments in the same 5-2 split as the original ruling, with Justices Ron Parraguirre and Nancy Saitta in the minority.

The ruling could have ramifications for other municipal governments. The Henderson City Council functions similarly to Reno’s government, where both the mayor and city council members vote on matters. In some other cities such as Sparks, the mayor doesn’t vote and is considered the head of local government.

Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen has served 22 years on the City Council, 10 of which came after term limits kicked in. Hafen was elected mayor in 2009 and re-elected last year.


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