Sunday, March 18, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Joe Mitchell for more than four years was former Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow’s right-hand man, working full-time as Barlow’s personal liaison and also serving on Barlow’s campaign in 2015 by knocking on doors in Ward 5.
In late 2016, as Mitchell entered his office at City Hall, he was greeted by FBI agents. They wanted to talk about an investigation into campaign fraud by his boss, who on Jan. 22 pleaded guilty to such wrongdoing and resigned his seat.
Mitchell, who wasn’t charged, wants to set the record straight as a candidate to take Barlow’s empty seat.
“Merely by occupation, the agents thought I may have seen something and for those reasons I was questioned,” Mitchell said. “Through that process I offered to answer more questions, and they’ve never called me back.”
Mitchell, 48, is one of 11 candidates, including Las Vegas Planning Commissioner and Board of Regent Cedric Crear, and former Nevada Assemblyman Harvey Munford, running to replace the embattled former councilman. The winner of the March 27 special election will assume Barlow’s seat at the April 18 City Council meeting and serve the remainder of his scheduled term through July 2019.
Barlow faces one federal charge of fraudulently misusing 2015 campaign funds, which carries up to 18 months in prison. He will be sentenced on May 31.
Mitchell said he understands the public’s concern with his candidacy because his tenure includes the campaign for which Barlow is being charged.
But Mitchell insists the investigation stemmed back as far as 2011, even before Mitchell arrived on staff. An FBI spokesman did not return a request for comment.
“I don’t know if it’s fair to presume the characteristics of one councilman is somehow transferable to their assistants or liaisons like me,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been thoroughly vetted and the evidence for that has been played out.”
Robin Munier has served as Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian’s assistant since Tarkanian was first elected in 2005. She has worked closely with Mitchell the past four years, calling him a “hard worker with a lot of integrity” who often exceeds his 40-hour work week.
“He wasn’t a 9-to-5 guy. He put in extra time and worked with people in the community,” Munier said. “He was very conscientious.”
Running on a platform of public safety, Mitchell said crime-free neighborhoods are “a fundamental and natural desire of every person living in them.” If elected, he hopes to help create such neighborhoods in Ward 5, which includes areas of downtown Las Vegas.
“If we can get people believing and feeling safe, that’s a psychological campaign we could all benefit from,” he said. “That kind of development will have enduring value for our projects and goals for the city.”