Lawsuit from A’s stadium supporters seeks to block union’s Nevada ballot measure

Two labor leaders filed the challenge, alleging that the petition’s description is “deficient” and “inaccurate,” among other claims.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
LegislatureState Government

A lawsuit filed Tuesday by two longtime labor leaders is challenging the teacher union-led PAC “Schools Over Stadiums’” referendum petition to repeal public funding for a new Major League Baseball stadium in Las Vegas.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Danny Thompson, the former head of the Nevada AFL-CIO, and Thomas Morley, a private consultant and the retired political director of Laborers Local 872, in the 1st District Court in Carson City, where all legal challenges to ballot questions are filed.

It argues that Schools Over Stadiums’ petition “does not include the full text of the proposal as required by the state Constitution and alleges that the referendum petition’s description is “inaccurate, misleading, and argumentative, and is therefore legally inadequate and does not meet the requirements of Nevada law.”

Representatives from the Oakland A’s deferred any comment on the lawsuit to the attorney working on the case, Bradley Schrager. Reached by phone Thursday, Schrager said he was representing “a broad and emerging coalition of business and labor interests.”

“SB1 obviously passed with majorities in both houses,” he said, referring to the bill that authorized public financing to help the A’s construct a 33,000-seat ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip. “It was approved by the governor, so it’s no surprise that that support exists.” 

Asked whether the A’s are part of the coalition, he replied: “Yes, of course.”

The PAC behind the ballot measure was launched in June by the Nevada State Education Association following the approval of SB1.

“Suing educators trying to put schools first sets a terrible tone for an organization claiming to now care about our community,” Alexander Marks of Schools Over Stadiums said in the press release responding to the lawsuit.

Organized labor backed the A’s when the bill was before the Legislature. The Southern Nevada Building Trades has a project labor agreement with A’s for the construction of the ballpark and Culinary Workers Local 226 has an agreement with the team to organize workers at the stadium once it opens. The A’s were also the title sponsor of the Nevada AFL-CIO Convention in August at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.

Representatives of Schools Over Stadiums filed the referendum petition in September, citing a need for public funding to go to public schools, “not to a California billionaire for a stadium.” Marks said the organization will continue gathering signatures to attempt to qualify the petition for the ballot.

They said in the press release that both plaintiffs are well-connected lobbyists who have close ties to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority and said that the effort to repeal SB1 has faced opposition from the beginning and the latest lawsuit won’t dampen their efforts.

“When we launched Schools Over Stadiums in June, an A’s representative called to pressure me into abandoning our effort to refocus Nevada’s misguided priorities,” said Dawn Etcheverry, an elementary music teacher and President of Schools Over Stadiums. “Educators will not be intimidated or bullied. Some in our community claim to support educators and schools, but when we advocate to prioritize public education, they say, ‘No, not like that.’”

However, the lawsuit argues that the petition contains information that is misleading and inaccurate, rendering it void.

“Collectively, material omissions and misstatements render it impossible for a potential signatory to make an informed decision whether to sign the Petition,” Schrager wrote in the filing. 

To get an initiative or referendum on the ballot that proposes or repeals language for state law, a petitioner must obtain enough signatures to equate to at least 10 percent of the ballots cast in the previous general election — meaning that at least 102,586 signatures are needed to qualify the measure. At least 25,647 signatures would need to come from each of the state’s four congressional districts.

The petitioners must collect and submit signatures by July 8, 2024. If a petition receives enough signatures and a simple majority of Nevadans vote in favor of the corresponding ballot question, it would pass and change state law.

After much discussion and several amendments, lawmakers in a June special session passed the bill that committed up to $380 million in public financing through a combination of tax credits and county-issued bonds. The proposed $1.5 billion baseball stadium is set to be built on 9 acres of a 35-acre parcel that houses the Tropicana Las Vegas.

The special legislative session took place after lawmakers failed to pass a stadium funding bill in the regular 120-day session because of a budget standoff between the governor and Democratic legislative leaders.

Though the Legislature approved the funding bill, the A’s are waiting for Major League Baseball to approve the team’s relocation request.

In an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes owners will vote on the Athletics’ proposed move to Las Vegas when they meet Nov. 14-16 in Arlington, Texas. The vote requires 75 percent of the owners to approve the relocation.

Regardless of when the vote takes place, the proposed stadium in Las Vegas is not expected to be ready until the start of the 2028 season.

The A’s are under contract to play the 2024 season in Oakland, but Major League Baseball will have to decide where the team will play before the Las Vegas ballpark is completed.

The A’s are also in the process of selecting an architect for the ballpark and plan to have that process complete before the relocation vote. A’s owner John Fisher is expected to finance more than $1 billion of the stadium’s costs. 

Gaming and Leisure Properties, the real estate investment trust that owns the 35-acre site, would spend up to $175 million for “certain shared improvements within the future development in exchange for a commensurate rent increase.”

Corrected at 11:24 a.m. on 9/29/2023 to clarify Thomas Morley's job description.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. on 9/28/2023 with additional details on the lawsuit.


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