Embroiled in a nasty battle with a local developer over the future of the Badlands Golf Course at Queensridge, Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Seroka finds himself with powerful critics these days.
The jury’s still out, metaphorically speaking, on a small mountain of litigation. But I do know there’s one law he’s unquestionably violated.
It’s sometimes called the “law of holes.”
In short, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
Will Rogers was known for reminding feckless politicians and reckless husbands that the fastest way out of a hole of their own creation was to cease making it deeper. Seroka, the embattled rookie, can ill afford to make his political enemies’ job easier. Yet I think that’s precisely what he’s doing.
The Las Vegas city attorney’s office has opened an inquiry into a human resources complaint against Seroka leveled by a female city employee, knowledgeable sources confirmed this past week. The specifics aren’t public, but the very existence of the inquiry had City Hall sources buzzing.
A call Friday to Seroka was not returned. City Attorney Brad Jerbic declined comment. Council members were informed of the inquiry, but admonished to keep it quiet.
Although still employed, the woman is not currently on the job at City Hall. She appears to be on leave while the facts are sorted out.
Elected officials are commonly the subject of politically motivated complaints filed for a variety of reasons. When some developers don’t get their way, they claim bias. When some employees are passed over for promotions, they swear the boss had it in for them.
Such grousing comes with the territory. And, these days, there’s no shortage of paranoia present at the city given all the litigation associated with the Badlands condominium development by Yohan Lowie of EHB Companies.
From what I’ve learned, this latest city inquiry falls into none of those categories. It has nothing to do with the dustup over the development.
The brief political career of Seroka (rhymes with “Jamocha”) has been marred by the rising defense costs of the Lowie litigations, punctuated by a vigorous recall effort led publicly by Laborers International Union of North America Local 872, and complicated by an ethics complaint filed against his choice for the Las Vegas City Planning Commission.
Did I mention he’s only been in office since June 2017?
While Seroka’s allies will write off most of his troubles to politics and rookie mistakes, and remind skeptics that he logged a distinguished 30-year career as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, the recent personnel inquiry is another matter.
With the ubiquitous political adviser, Tom Letizia, warming up Victoria Seaman should a recall election win approval, and Local 872’s Tommy White telling friends the union will have far more signatures than needed to force the issue, the coming weeks will test the mettle of even a seasoned fighter pilot.
The politically active union, through attorneys Rusty Graf and Shannon Wilson, filed a 28-page lawsuit last week against the city, Seroka and retiring Councilman Bob Coffin alleging the council members were biased against the developer and should have recused themselves from their votes in the Badlands matter. And on it goes.
Part of Seroka’s problem has been his near-obsession with the Queensridge issue, which he used to defeat well-connected realtor Christina Roush in the 2017 primary and incumbent Bob Beers in the June general to win the Ward 2 seat. The issue has been a costly distraction to the council and has damaged the body’s generally collegial atmosphere.
What may have seemed like an easy decision to name Roush as his planning commissioner turned controversial when she was slapped with an ethics complaint alleging a failure to candidly declare and fully disclose a family connection to a property before the board.
His Queensridge constituents may be well pleased with their councilman’s dedication, but the affair makes him look increasingly like a one-issue pony. Candidate Seroka announced at a Feb. 14, 2017 planning commission meeting, “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.”
For his part, Jerbic said in a May 16, 2018 council meeting, “I am not a planner. I don’t have access to the planning computers, but the applicant came to the planning department years ago and said, ‘What is the zoning for this property we call the Badlands country club?’ And they gave him a letter saying it is RPD7. I have seen no evidence that they are wrong in what they gave him.”
Seroka, obviously, sees it differently.
But if the councilman doesn’t stop digging that hole, he’s going to wind up doing his critics’ job for them.
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