COMMENTARY: Steve Miller Las Vegas Tribune August 15, 2001We win some, and we lose some…
In 1998, Reno citizen watchdog Sam Dehne and I refused to pay bogus fines to the Nevada Ethics Commission. Thanks to the ACLU, a federal judge on Monday July 30, ruled that our First Amendment rights were violated and reversed the fines.
This ruling will cause the City of Las Vegas to reconsider a portion of their latest revision to the city ethics law-allowing fines up to $1,000 against citizens.
During the May, 2001 jury trial in my ongoing slander case against former mayor Jan Jones, Jones attempted a vexatious maneuver. She asked Reno attorney Mary Boetsch, the former Chairwoman of the Ethics Commission, to fly to Las Vegas to testify on her behalf.
Boetsch is the same Chairwoman who had frivolously fined Mr. Dehne and myself in 1998.
Only events that occurred immediately before and immediately after the 1991 Las Vegas mayoral election in which Jones and I were candidates were supposed to be admitted as evidence or testimony in my trial. However, testimony and news articles relating to events that occurred between five years before, and up until seven years following the 1991 election were heard by the jury, hence my recent appeal of the verdict to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Judge Cherry wisely opined that Boetsch's testimony in my trial would be irrelevant because it related to an event that happened seven years after the slander.
Jones still wanted her to testify, but Boetsch did not show, possibly because of a December 5, 1999, article that I had written for the Sparks Daily Tribune, a Reno area newspaper, and the Las Vegas Tribune. My attorney Sam Harding planned to question Boetsch about the article if she were put on the stand.
Here is a portion of that article; NEVADA ETHICS COMMISSION INTOXICATED WITH THEIR POWER:
"It all started when I requested the Nevada Ethics Commission's 'opinion' about former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones misusing her Mayoral title to promote competitive-to-Nevada casinos in Detroit while not disclosing that two companies she held stock in -- Mirage and Circus Circus -- were actively bidding for licenses in Detroit at the same time of her visit.
I now believe that I accidentally stumbled into an area that was politically off limits -- at least in Nevada where casinos like Mirage and Circus Circus are King. Maybe I should have realized that their lust to expand into other jurisdictions, and their chosen spokeswoman - Mayor Jan Jones -- were not to be questioned.
The Chairwoman of the Ethics Commission at the July 17, 1998, hearing on Jones' Detroit activities was Reno Attorney Mary Boetsch, Governor Bob Miller's appointment.
Ms. Boetsch is a close associate of Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Pappa. Del Pappa is a close associate of former Mayor Jan Jones -- the subject of my Request for Opinion. I should have seen the writing on the wall!
(At the hearing) Boetsch chastised me for speaking to the press about my Opinion Request on Jones. She said the document was Confidential and that I had no right to release such information, especially so close to an election Jones was a candidate in. I argued that such Requests for Opinion were public documents and that I had every right to publicly release the information.
Boetsch continued criticizing the timing of my Opinion Request in the middle of the (1998) Gubernatorial election, asking me why I chose that time to make my Request?
I answered that I did not control the Commission's agenda -- she did -- and that I had no control over the timing of the hearing -- only she could schedule such hearings in the middle of an election.
Boetsch went on to tersely state that she intended to carefully scrutinize and limit any new evidence I wished to present about Jones. She told me that such new information would only be allowed if it were, in her opinion, 'relevant, non-redundant, and not personal opinion,' otherwise she threatened to 'cut off' my testimony.
I reminded the Chairwoman and her Commission that I was there in Reno at my own expense and volition to do them the favor of exposing a very corrupt politician, and that I deserved to be treated with more professionalism and courtesy.
Again the Chairwoman said that she intended to cut me off if I did not offer new information. I replied that all of the information I wished to present was new, and again asked if I may proceed. Boetsch repeated her threat to cut me off.
Her rude and unprofessional behavior had become so discouraging that I decided to show my feelings with action instead of words. I got up and silently exited her meeting.
In the hallway I was met by the Reno press, and I told them that I had just witnessed a Kangaroo Court. I said that I fully expected them to arbitrarily and capriciously excuse Jones. I was soon proven correct!
The Commission promptly proceeded to dismiss my Request about Jones. They then, in the presence of Jones and her aide Cathy Hanson, voted to fine me $2,500 for filing what they called a 'frivolous' Request for their Opinion...
Several news stories followed in which Chairwoman Boetsch was quoted making disparaging remarks about me. I did not respond to her statements.
No communications followed from the Nevada Commission on Ethics for nine months, then two weeks before the spring (1999) City Council election in which I was a candidate, the Commission leaked a story to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
I then realized what was the true mission of the Nevada Ethics Commission; they were a political hatchet used to kill the messengers who expose certain corrupt politicians.
Following the "fines," I was shocked to learn that Boetsch had made her rulings while she was serving a DUI sentence! I demanded her immediate resignation.
Upon reading the Chairwoman's 'Opinion' of me in the RJ, I replied to her with the following letter on April 26, 1999:
"I have received your Opinion No. 9842 in the middle of my campaign for Las Vegas City Council. Your timing was of no surprise after witnessing the political favors you granted Mayor Jan Jones on the eleven occasions she appeared before you. Now you are at it again!
I am at a loss of words to express my disgust at receiving an 'Opinion' from a person like you after it was announced that you had resigned. I am especially disgusted when I remember your Arrest Report and Declaration of Probable Cause dated March 26,1997.
I am vehemently opposed to people like you being on public boards -- or on public roads -- after being arrested for a crime as serious as Drunken Driving. Furthermore, you lied to Nevada Highway Patrol officer R. M. Smith on the night of your arrest according to his official report. Case No. 6985949.
You even had the gall to tell him that you had not been drinking, then changed your story! (BURRRP!) Why you chose to remain on the Ethics Commission after that night in 1997 completely baffles me.
Because the 'Opinion' you sent me had your (BURRRP) signature on it, and since I am a staunch supporter of the strengthening of Drunken Driving laws, I will place your stupid 'Opinion' in the closest appropriate receptacle and pull the handle."
Boetsch stepped down and I received no further communication from the Ethics Commission regarding the "fine." Now, because of some good work by the ACLU, many of Mary Boetsch's bogus rulings have been reversed and the good guys have finally won one for a change!
Steve Miller was the author and Sponsor of the City of Las Vegas Ethics in Government Law. Steve is the State Coordinator of the Nevada Coalition Against Gambling Expansion Outside Nevada. Visit his website at: http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com