Published Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 | 11:55 a.m.
Updated Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 | 3:10 p.m.
The saga of Vicki Mayes and her husband’s car registration ended Thursday when the Boulder City Council voted to take no disciplinary action against the city manager after nearly three hours of heated discussion at a packed City Hall.
The council voted down three motions to discipline Mayes: first, as proposed by Councilwoman Linda Strickland, to terminate her; second, also by Strickland’s motion, to submit a written reprimand for insubordination and inappropriate management of city personnel into Mayes’ employee file; and third, offered by Councilman Cam Walker, to verbally reprimand her for misusing city resources.
The first two motions were denied by a 3-2 vote, with Strickland and Councilman Travis Chandler supporting while Walker, Mayor Roger Tobler and Councilman Duncan McCoy opposed. Strickland, Chandler and McCoy opposed the third, while Tobler and Walker voted in favor.
Council members and the public alike slung accusations across the council chambers.
Some accused Mayes of willful misconduct when dealing with the controversy and using her position to influence other city employees. They argued that a “troika” of McCoy, Tobler and Walker had an unwavering loyalty to Mayes, based on previous city council decisions, and predicted the three would vote against harsher disciplinary action.
Some of the language implied a level of fascism.
“This is the most difficult regime I’ve ever seen in my life. Everyone on staff is a part of this and afraid to go against (Mayes),” said Neal Sinaikan, a 25-year Boulder City resident, who said Mayes’ actions “leave a lack of trust” between city officials and residents.
Mayes’ supporters claimed Strickland was pursuing some kind of witch-hunt out of her personal dislike of Mayes and seizing an opportunity to push Mayes out of office. Strickland had said she hired a private investigator after Mayes refused to provide her with information related to the controversy.
Supporters of Mayes called for the city to “move on.” Allusions were made to the Salem witch trials and the Spanish Inquisition, while some vehemently defended Mayes’ integrity.
“You have demonstrated that your primary goal is to get me out of this seat,” Mayes said directly to Strickland, “and I think that you would do anything to do that … I feel I can’t trust you — I know I can’t trust you with my family’s personal information.”
Each side’s statements were frequently met with applause, reflecting a deep divide among Boulder City’s residents that the controversy had brought to the surface. Spectators spilled into the hallway and watched the meeting on closed-circuit TV.
The drama stemmed from an Aug. 17 KLAS-TV report about Mayes and her husband, Dennis, registering a 2010 Nissan GT-R, worth $83,000, under an LLC in the state of Montana. About the same time, the Las Vegas constable announced a plan to crack down on drivers who avoided registering their cars in Nevada, where licensing fees are higher to make up for Nevada’s lack of a state income tax.
Mayes had initially referred to the decision to register the car in Montana in the first-person, using pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘we’.
“I feel that I have the same legal rights to register a vehicle that you have," she told the KLAS reporter. "It was a business decision that we made.”
At Thursday’s special council meeting, Bruce Woodbury, the attorney representing Dennis, presented a different version of the events: Dennis bought the car and created the LLC independently of Mayes’ knowledge. Mayes even protested his registering the car in Montana when she was told, Woodbury said.
Mayes elaborated Thursday on her initial interview with KLAS, saying she was tired and used poor judgment in her choice of words.
Woodbury said Mayes was connected to the LLC only by Dennis listing her as a joint tenant in case of his death, which he said also was done without her knowledge. The actual documents for the LLC, however, weren’t presented to the council before it made its decision.
Dennis Mayes is in possession of the files, Woodbury said. Dennis didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting. As Vicki Mayes put it, and friends of the family later attested, Dennis is “his own man” and makes decisions without his wife’s consent.
Strickland countered that Mayes’ story changed after she “lawyered up.” The car has since been registered in Nevada, and no charges have been filed.
Strickland also questioned Mayes’ use of the city’s time to manage the fallout of the TV report. In e-mails between Mayes and police chief Tom Finn, provided to the Sun by Chandler after a Freedom of Information request by Strickland, they discuss the matter. For example, documents show Mayes sought advice on the wording of her own press release and Finn offered the services of a media expert to help draft a rebuttal during regular business hours over the course of two days.
That press release was also printed on Boulder City letterhead and distributed by the city’s public information office.
Finally, Strickland said she felt Mayes’ refusal to answer Strickland’s questions about the controversy qualified as insubordination, as the city manager is an “at-will” employee who is appointed by and serves the city council as an administrator.
At the meeting’s conclusion, each of the council members expressed their own reasons for voting the way they did.
Walker called Strickland’s motion for termination “absurd” and praised Mayes for her public service. Tobler said, “I have never known (Mayes) to be a dishonest person” and added that he still had faith in her ability to serve as city manager. McCoy echoed the calls for Boulder City to move on, saying: “I think the lesson has been learned.”
Strickland and Chandler agreed that the city needed to send a message in light of the controversy surrounding Mayes’ actions. When Walker made his motion for a verbal reprimand, Strickland opposed it because she believed it was an inadequate response, she said after the meeting adjourned.
McCoy reasoned that the public scrutiny was enough punishment.
“Point well taken,” Mayes said after the decisions were made. She declined to comment after the meeting.