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March 26, 2019

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‘Cowboy Commissioner’ Tom Collins steps down, cites family matters

2014 NLV State of the City Address

Steve Marcus

Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins attends the North Las Vegas State of the City Address on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at Aliante.

Updated Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 | 9:33 a.m.

Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, who increasingly belied his cowboy image with fits of bellicosity and vulgarity, abruptly resigned Monday afternoon.

He announced his resignation on Twitter but did little to elaborate. Colleagues and officials noted, however, that his political bullying had become increasingly intolerable, prompting county administrators to limit his use of email.

"Today, I have delivered my resignation from Clark County Commission to (Gov. Brian Sandoval) effective at 3 p.m.," he said on Twitter.

Collins cited "family matters that I will be dedicated to for the next few months" in his letter to Sandoval.

County management recently blocked Collins from emailing certain county staff from his personal account, spokesman Erik Pappa said this afternoon. It's not known if that contributed to his departure.

The county provided two emails to the Sun following a records request showing profane messages Collins sent to a county employee and county manager Don Burnette.

In one email sent last month, Collins called the unidentified employee "a simple plague" and said to "stay the f#&k away from me." In the other, he describes the county's animal control department as "vindictive SOBs."

Click to enlarge photo
Click to enlarge photo

Burnette today described the emails as "completely inappropriate and unacceptable."

Collins has not returned a request for comment.

Known as the "Cowboy Commissioner," Collins was one of the most opinionated members of Clark County's most powerful board and frequently registered dissenting votes.

Collins served on the Clark County Commission since 2005. In 2012, he was re-elected to a third term with 55 percent of the vote. He is term-limited and was due to leave office in January 2017.

"He's always been true to himself," said Chris Giunchigliani, who's served with Collins on the commission and in the Legislature. "It's been a little volatile for him these last few months, but that should not change 20 years of activism, caring and being honest and truthful, sometimes to a fault."

Giunchigliani said she met with Collins last week and he didn't indicate at the time he would be resigning.

"He was really kind of on an upbeat," she said.

Giunchigliani credited Collins for bringing the perspective of the rural residents who made up much of his district, which covered the northern part of Clark County, including parts of North Las Vegas, Mesquite and Moapa.

"He definitely wanted to protect the rural lifestyle," she said. "If you're a little guy, Tom would give you the shirt off his back."

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said Collins' resignation came "as a total shock."

"I don't know what precipitated (his resignation) so quickly," Sisolak said. "Tom had a career devoted to public service. I wish him well."

Collins frequently clashed with fellow commissioners, including a 2014 incident when he used expletives to refer to two commissioners during a surreptitiously recorded conversation with now-ousted Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura.

In 2014, during the Cliven Bundy controversy, Collins wrote on his Facebook page that any Utahns coming with guns to help Bundy, a Clark County rancher, “better have funeral plans.” The post also said Collins referred to Utahns as inbred and used several expletives.

Collins publicly apologized in April 2014 for both incidents.

“I’ve been in a downward spiral for a couple of years, I admit it. I’ve done some rude things and some not pleasant things,” he said. “I have not treated my colleagues the way that I should.”

In 2012, Collins was charged with one count of discharging a firearm within city limits and one count of disturbing the peace after he fired gunshots into a salt cedar tree that he had been trying to cut down with a chainsaw. He admitted he had been drinking during the incident. (He later paid a fine and was re-elected.)

In a March profile of Collins, the Los Angeles Times cited "personal peccadilloes that might have dynamited other political careers,” including a well-known fondness for Pendleton Canadian whiskey, which he "unapologetically professed to keep a bottle on his office desk, by his bed and by the TV.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval will appoint Collins' replacement, who legally must be a Democrat, like Collins.

One front-runner for the position is Democratic Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who served as Assembly Speaker in 2011 and 2013. Kirkpatrick is termed out in the Legislature and was seen as a leading candidate to replace Collins in the 2016 election, although she has not officially declared a bid. Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross also has expressed interest in running for Collins' commission seat.

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