It started when Councilman Mike Carrigan fired a political and personal shot over the head of Councilman Phil Salerno. Carrigan wants to remove Salerno from his council-appointed seat on the board of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA). And not just remove him: Carrigan wants to replace him with none other than himself.
Carrigan said it was time to get Salerno off the board; not because he wasn’t adequately representing Sparks but because Salerno didn’t agree with the rest of the Council on a proposed bill draft request (BDR) to be submitted to the state Legislature.
The Council is requesting a change in state law that will allow the city to collect all the room tax on any new hotels built after 2008. Normally, this would be given to the RSCVA to promote regional tourism. Now Sparks wants the tax to form its own tourism authority. They probably want to sell the Sparks Marina, Scheels and Target as a destination resort.
Carrigan, using his non-sensible logic, says he is concerned that Salerno’s opposition could affect the city’s ties to the RSCVA. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Salerno’s position to protect the RSCVA’s room tax from Sparks will enhance his and the city’s ties to the RSCVA. It’s Carrigan’s bill request to siphon off their revenue, which will certainly have a negative effect on future dealings with the RSCVA.
The battle between the Council and its representative at the RSCVA is not new. In 1997, when Mayor Bruce Breslow was representing Sparks on the board, Councilman Tony Armstrong and others felt Breslow wasn’t fully representing Sparks. The Council had concerns they felt were not being presented by Breslow. That may or not have been true.
In Breslow’s defense, he was only one voice surrounded by high-powered gamers and hotel/motel owners, not to mention two representatives from both the Washoe County Commission and the Reno City Council.
All in all, except for some poor personal decisions, Breslow did a pretty good job for the RSCVA. One mistake Breslow did make was accepting the chairmanship of the board. As chair, he was obligated to represent and balance the needs of all parties concerned collectively, somewhat diluting his ability to represent the city of Sparks individually. That’s one of the reasons the board elected him as chair. I’m sure that point was overlooked at the time.
Because of the political differences between the Council and Mayor Breslow, I approached the city attorney and requested a resolution defining the duties of Sparks councilmembers on local boards, committees or commissions. In short, it states that “any Sparks elected official who has been appointed or elected to a local board ... shall, when directed by a majority vote of the Sparks City Council concerning a particular issue, represent the city (not himself) in accordance with the specific directives of the Sparks City Council.” Resolution 2498 was approved on Dec. 22, 1997 by councilmen Mayer, Salerno, Armstrong, Henderson, Zive and signed by Mayor Breslow.
So, if Carrigan or any other member of Council feels Salerno is not representing them fairly at the RSCVA, all they have to do is discuss the issue publicly, get a majority vote and hand it to Salerno to bring before the board. Why does Salerno have to be removed? Oh, I think I know! It must be Carrigan’s ego and illusion of power.
Salerno says the Council is on a “witch hunt” and has no respect for him as a senior member of the council. And he might be right.
During a phone conversation with me last Friday, Salerno said he believes the other council members met behind closed doors and discussed how they would appoint each other to boards and commissions and how to get Carrigan appointed to the RSCVA. If such a meeting occurred, Salerno said they might have violated the open meeting law.
Salerno, referring to Nevada Revised Statute 244a.601, says he can’t be removed from the RSCVA board. The statute reads, “The terms of members appointed to the (RSCVA) are coterminous with their terms of office.” Although, that could have several interpretations, basically I think he makes a good point.
If Carrigan is still determined to replace Salerno at the RSCVA, he might want to consider a disciplinary action against Salerno. According to the Sparks City Charter Section 2.020(a), the City Council may “provide, by resolution or ordinance, for the discipline of any elected or appointed officer of the city for unethical conduct.” The disciplinary action could be Salerno’s removal from the RSCVA. But first, he has to prove Salerno was unethical, and then be sure he is not unethical himself.
It does seem that Ron Schmitt, Ron Smith, Mike Carrigan and even the newly elected Julia Ratti are closely aligned. They should be reminded that politics doesn’t always mean alignment or four against one. It is their polemics, new individual ideas and independent thought that will create solutions and a realistic future for Sparks, not just being a head-nodder involved in Carrigan’s witch hunt.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.thefarsidechronicles. com.