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April 20, 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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  1. So far the race for mayor has been pretty clean, too bad this came up.

  2. The ad's right -- a stupid, intrusive local ordinance got in the way of jobs. Politicians like Ross who let public bodies interfere with commerce and contractual agreements like this deserve to be kicked to the curb.

    "I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically." -- Henry David Thoreau 1849 "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"

  3. "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."
    If the above statement is true, then Joseph Scala really has nothing to complain about. Looks like he was attempting to stifle business by other dealers back then.
    As far as the campaign being clean, not so fast. The Harris campaign has a robo call out there bad mouthing Victor Chaltiel.

  4. This was not a long term business open in Centennial Hills. The doors opened in June under a temporary license that the owner obviously knew there were issue with and they had the primary duty to their employees to ensure that all issues were handled before relocating them to this NEW location.

    Joseph Scala thought he could engage in some political blackmail that did not pay off for him and those poor employees of his that he puts up on the video if they did indeed lose their jobs instead of going to other locations should blame him for poor business planning.

    Notice that the website registered in December 2010 and they waited until March 22 to publish something. The time for authentic outrage has passed.

    I live in Centennial Hills and I feel that Steve Ross has served my community well. I looked into the issue and for such an outraged group I found NOTHING in the City Council agenda about the business license that they had appealed its sunset. Could not find a single public comment or agenda item. Las Vegas has open meeting laws for a reason including those who want sweetheart deals without public input.

    Why not ask Scala why he did not fight for his employees and take it to the mat then? This campaign could have hit the heartstrings back at Christmas. Who doubts Oscar would have taken to the airwaves then to get attention and give his wife a photo opportunity to show compassion as these employees packed up their things on Christmas Eve.

    This does not even make political marketing sense.

    I think the dealership was not selling cars in a down economy so blaming the government is easier than defending an unprofitable business in a down economy.

    All I see now is a proposed bill by Steve Wolfson that would allow the sale of autos and boats in areas previously deemed industrial as any action that could remotely impact Scala's business.