Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Nevada Wonk

Ad accuses City Councilman Steve Ross of killing jobs; Ross calls ad ‘revenge’

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Steve Ross

Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross is campaigning for mayor on a "working man" platform, claiming he is the mayoral candidate best suited to create jobs, but a new website, TV commercial and "documentary" that hit the airwaves Tuesday accuse Ross of being a job killer.

"Steve Ross put dozens of people out of work on Christmas Eve," a voice in one of the ads says.

The website calls Ross a "grinch."

Both hit pieces appear to be paid for by former employees of Courtesy Automotive Group, owned by Joseph Scala.

Scala and Ross are bitter enemies who have been feuding for some time.

At issue is the closing of one of Scala's car dealerships in Centennial Hills, the portion of Las Vegas Ross represents.

Scala and his workers blame Ross for the closure. Ross says he tried to work with Scala to keep the business open and its workers employed, but Scala refused to cooperate.

A Centennial Hills ordinance requires car dealerships to have a franchise agreement with an auto manufacturer, like Ford or Toyota, in order to operate. When the financial crisis hit in 2007 and 2008, many big auto manufacturers backed out of franchise deals, including one with Courtesy.

Ross and the City Council passed a measure to temporarily lift the requirement, but the stopgap sunsetted last December and the Courtesy dealership closed.

Scala wanted the exemption extended further but claims that Mayor Oscar Goodman told him that "he couldn't get Ross to come around" to approve it.

"I don't think you can reason with him," Scala said of Ross.

Ross claims Scala "refused to comply with honest attempts to keep the doors open and...requested an inappropriate 'sweetheart' deal not available to any other dealer."

Ross said he refused to compromise his integrity or be intimidated, so he held his ground against Scala.

Scala was previously tangled up in accusations of sweetheart deals, when a decade ago he was named in an ethics complaint filed against former City Councilman Michael Mack, Ross' predecessor.

Scala loaned Mack $60,000, which Mack didn't disclosed even while casting votes that favored Scala at the expense of rival car dealers.

Scala also made $10,000 in campaign contributions to Mack through his Courtesy car dealerships and lent Mack use of at least one Courtesy vehicle for the councilman's election bid.

The Ross campaign also pointed out that as one of the first major business developers in Centennial Hills, Scala helped write the very ordinance he later wanted overturned.

"Mr. Scala is used to getting his way, and it's pretty clear Steve Ross doesn't offer the same kind of services Mr. Mack offered," Ross' campaign director Steve Redlinger said. "I think this guy is trying to go about things in a backwards way to get what he wants."

Ross called the ads "revenge."

He also urged his opponent Carolyn Goodman to denounce the television spot and website. Ross claims Mack now works as a senior adviser to Goodman.

"I stood up to these guys," Ross said. "Carolyn accepted them into her campaign."

Goodman campaign director Bradley Mayer said Mack is a friend of the Goodman family and helps with fundraising but has no formal role in the campaign.

Mayer said he and the Goodmans found out about the attacks Tuesday morning, when a reporter called for comment.

"This looks like an outside group that is extremely upset with him, have a beef with him and are taking it out on him," Mayer said.

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