The Las Vegas City Council violated Nevada’s Open Meeting Law by cutting off the microphone of a progressive activist making critical comments during a council meeting, the state attorney general’s office recently concluded.
Dan Rolle, the activist and former congressional candidate, had lobbed criticism at Councilman Stavros Anthony during the Nov. 18 meeting and then was prevented from getting the allotted full minute given to public speakers.
In response to a complaint filed by Rolle, the attorney general’s office determined on April 14 that although the council “may not have intended to restrict Mr. Rolle’s comments based on viewpoint,” it did not allow him to say everything he had sought to say while allowing other members of the public to provide positive comments.
“It’s serious,” Rolle said in an interview Monday. “I think that the entire essence of representative government is hearing from your constituents.”
The attorney general’s office did not support other allegations made by Rolle, according to a copy of its report obtained by the Review-Journal, including that the council uses intimidation and retaliation to chill public comment, saying that the claim lacked evidence.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who took responsibility Monday for cutting off Rolle’s microphone, said she did so not because of what he said but because he was “not being courteous, polite and respectful.”
“We take the correction openly and respect the decision of the attorney general,” Goodman said.
The council now must publicly acknowledge the attorney general’s office’s fact finding and opinion, which it plans to do during next week’s meeting, according to city spokesman Jace Radke.
Big-box store for conspiracy theorists
Publicly available video from the Nov. 18 meeting shows Rolle’s microphone was abruptly stopped about halfway through his afforded minute to speak. He initially castigated Anthony for being “obviously incompetent, unable to handle something as simple as a parking ticket.”
Goodman interrupted Rolle, urging him to be polite and positive and to reach out to Anthony’s office with any issues.
“Don’t put people down unless you’re perfect,” she said, before giving back Rolle his full minute to speak.
Rolle proceeded to propose opening a big-box retail store called MAGA Mart “that caters exclusively to baby boomers who only advocate conspiracy theories on Facebook.” He added that he would be happy to offer a job to Anthony for $15 an hour with health insurance if Anthony, a Republican, was unsuccessful in challenging his defeat in a race that month for Clark County Commission.
That challenge is now pending in front of the state Supreme Court.
“This is ridiculous,” Councilwoman Michele Fiore said two times before Rolle’s microphone cut off and she can be heard calling him “a jerk-off.”
‘I think we’re very open-minded’
Rolle said he sees a disparity in when the council is willing to listen to public remarks based on whether it agrees with them or not. He cast his relationship with city lawmakers as not strictly antagonistic although he vowed to continue to hold them accountable on First Amendment issues regardless of a commenter’s viewpoint.
The council is a nonpartisan board but split evenly politically: There are three Democrats and three Republicans, and Goodman, who considers herself politically independent.
“I think we’re very open-minded,” Goodman said. “We are engaged in our jobs fully and obviously want to hear from our constituents.”
But the mayor said that she refuses to tolerate rudeness and suggested that Rolle in the past had appeared before the council “quite hostile.”
Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office also addressed other contentions in Rolle’s complaint, which he filed five days after the meeting.
The office found that city lawmakers did not violate the law by limiting how much time speakers had to address the council nor by seeking to confirm whether comments that Rolle made earlier in the meeting were related to a particular agenda item.
And the council also did not run afoul of the law by requesting that members of the public remove facial coverings to speak, according to the state office.