Inside City Hall: Councilman Seroka declares ‘mayday’
Former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Steve Seroka ejected from his Las Vegas City Council seat Monday after 18 months in office and one day after The Nevada Independent reported he was the subject of a potentially devastating human resources complaint by a City Hall subordinate.
Seroka, in a letter submitted to Las Vegas City Clerk LuAnn Holmes, wrote, “I’m proud of my record of service to the constituents of Las Vegas over these past two years. It has been humbling to serve the residents of Ward 2 and I thank everyone who has been supportive of the mission to improve the lives of every citizen.”
It has been a pressure-packed 18 months for the former pilot, who recently became the subject of a complaint from a city employee who’d been involved in a personal relationship with the councilman. Details of the complaint, including the name of the woman, haven’t been made public. Seroka made no reference to the issue in his resignation letter.
Seroka prevailed in the 2017 Ward 2 primary over Christina Roush and then defeated incumbent Bob Beers in the June runoff. He then appointed Roush, a well-connected Realtor, as his choice for the Las Vegas Planning Commission. She is now mired in an ethics complaint, and her sponsor has bailed out of office in the middle of a pitched political battle over the future of the Badlands Golf Course at Queensridge.
As a candidate, Seroka remained fully focused on halting the condominium development plans on part of the golf course of Yohan Lowie, head of EHB Companies and a high-profile, billion-dollar builder in the city. In a Feb. 14, 2017 planning commission meeting, candidate Seroka vowed, “Over my dead body will I allow a project that will set a precedent that will ripple across the community that those property values are not just impacted in Queensridge, but throughout the community.”
His defense of Queensridge helped propel him to office, but placed him squarely in the sights of Lowie’s efforts to see his condominium development fully realized. A flurry of litigation later, the issue — with many millions at stake on both sides — remains unsettled.
Known as “The Colonel” to his friends, Seroka’s campaign website touted a man who “was a highly-decorated 30-year Active Duty USAF Fighter Pilot, Strategist, Commander” and accentuated his advocacy for veterans.
Hamstrung by the litigation, and with what some observers considered a near-obsession with the Badlands-Queensridge issue, he was no high-flyer on the council and at times butted heads with Councilwoman Michele Fiore.
Seroka became the subject of a recall election effort fronted by Laborers Local 872, which last week filed a lawsuit against him, retiring Councilman Bob Coffin and the city, ostensibly for standing in the way of the job-creating development. The pugnacious and politically active union has made no secret for its disdain of Seroka and its association with Lowie advisor, Tom Letizia, who began tweeting about the likelihood of the councilman’s resignation on Sunday after my column on the subject broke.
Although Letizia’s client Victoria Seaman is already campaigning, the recall election won’t be necessary now. Seroka is out.
City Attorney Brad Jerbic, whose office was faced with the delicate duty of defending the institution and immediately deferred the complaint to outside counsel to avoid even the appearance of conflict, declined to comment on the resignation. But he did explain what is likely to come next.
The council will either name a replacement for Seroka, or have a special election. It has 30 days to make the decision. Although a council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jerbic said that doesn’t leave enough time to officially notice and discuss the matter. Look for the call later this month.
Coffin, who appeared to be Seroka’s closest ally on the seven-member board, maintained contact with Seroka in recent days and said he had no idea a resignation was imminent.
“I don’t have many words because I am stunned,” Coffin said. “It’s hard to find people who come into politics as an idealist and honest, and a little naive, but I believe he was a good man. He ran into the worst buzzsaw against one public official I have seen in 36 years of public service. It would have driven experienced politicians out just to have such rich guns aimed at you.”
In the end, it wasn’t those guns that shot him down.
A frustrating and brief tenure in elected office piled in a heap, in his resignation letter Seroka offered, “Thank you to the citizens of Las Vegas for electing me to serve. Please accept my sincere wishes for a better future for our great City.”
While his frustration on the council has ended, Seroka still must defend himself against multiple litigations associated with the battle over the future of Badlands.
At this point, I suspect he’s grateful for any landing he can walk away from.
John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal—”Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Amazon.com. Contact him at [email protected] On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith