Most voters decry the “swamp” of corruption, favoritism and self-dealing that seems to define Washington DC (although not all see it from the same perspective). You can see the swamp locally in that dark tower on First Street. I’m starting with a few recent examples.
Mayor Hillary Schieve
Schieve hosted a fundraiser to support the candidacy of Britton Griffith for Reno City Council running against Jenny Brekhus in Ward 1. Brekhus is the only “pro” on the city council with a degree in Urban Planning. Griffith is a principal in her father’s firm, Reno Engineers, that does work for developers. Griffith served on the Reno Planning Commission and had to recuse herself frequently from decisions since many developments under consideration involved Reno Engineers. This is a case of bringing the fox into the hen house. It reflects very poorly on Mayor Schieve who may be bent on preserving “Old Reno” where the public interest is subordinate to favors for special interests. She seems to crave a veneer of decorum and civility to mask the ethical rot.
Council Member Bonnie Weber
Weber hosted a meeting for the North Valleys Developers. Her affinity for builders probably stems from the fact that her husband works for a builder. It is a tenet of her service that she consistently supports developers before the city council. The problem with this meeting is that the invitation (bonnie webber flyer) came on official Reno City Council letterhead, but the RSVP responses went to her campaign manager. Beyond that, Angela Fuss, the new Reno Planning Manager was in attendance. One concerned citizen was told she was not welcome to attend. This appears to have been a private campaign fundraiser promoted as an official city function with city staff members present. That would be unethical in multiple dimensions. This has spurred an ethics complaint.
Council Member Neoma Jardon
Jardon failed to file her Contribution and Expense reports on time for the report due January 15, 2019. She filed this on January 2, 2020. This may have been simply an oversight, but it did mask campaign contributions from Marmot Properties for nearly a year. Marmot is seeking approval for projects under Schieve’s “1,000 homes” incentive program. The Nevada Secretary of State could fine Jardon for this violation.
Assistant City Manager Bill Thomas
Thomas’s responsibility in Reno included Community Development, Infrastructure, Public Works, and Development. Yet, his financial disclosure form indicates that he is an owner of Evans Ranch LLC. This is a giant speculative development above Cold Springs. It is a far-flung project which will be extremely dependent on Reno extending infrastructure to support it. This is a glaring conflict of interest. (Thomas_Disclosure) Thomas has just been approved as the Executive Director of the RTC. This is a happy coincidence for him since Evans Ranch will require substantial highway development. It will likely mean the widening of Red Rock Road and Lemmon Drive. Council Member Brekhus opposed his nomination with a letter to the RTC board (Brekhus-letter_021220). The RTC board, which includes council members Jardon and Delgado, approved the Thomas nomination unanimously despite Thomas’s apparent conflict of interest. Bob Lissner is a partner on Evans Ranch. He is represented by Jessica Sferrazza (former city council member turned super-lobbyist at the city hall) who is a close to personal friend and campaign promoter to Schieve. Follow the dots: Thomas-Lissner-Sferrazza-Schieve.
Planning Manager Angela Fuss
Fuss was a representative for Lumos (developer consultant) and worked for another development consultant before that. Last year, she was hired by the City of Reno to run their Planning Department. She was only separated from Lumos for a few weeks. One may assume that any request from a developer can expect the most favorable treatment from the Reno bureaucracy: they have a friend “inside”.
An ethical government would be concerned about any appearance of an ethical compromise or a conflict of interest. In Reno, there is no such concern. The malfeasance is in public view. Voters are left to wonder “if money is changing hands.”