Nevada City Accused of Retaliation

     LAS VEGAS (CN) - Boulder City, Nev., retaliated against citizens who got three local initiatives placed on a general election ballot by filing frivolous, and illegal, SLAPP lawsuits against them, the citizens claim in three lawsuits.
     The city went after now-plaintiffs Cynthia Harris, Daniel D. Jensen, Walt Rapp, James C. Douglass and Nancy Nolette, who recently succeeded in having the cases dismissed and this week filed lawsuits seeking damages from Boulder City.
     Nevada's anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (anti-SLAPP) law prevents local governments from filing lawsuits against petitioners.
     The three lawsuits filed by Boulder City officials named the petitioners as defendants and challenged the validity of the ballot initiatives, which successfully placed term limits on appointed public officials and limits the amount of new debt the city can accrue without a public vote.
     Jensen claims the lawsuits filed by city officials were "frivolous, vexatious, and an abuse of process" and were "filed primarily to discourage and deter the exercise of First Amendment rights and public participation."
     The term-limit initiative received more than 59 percent of the vote on Nov. 2, 2010.
     Another ballot initiative prevents Boulder City officials from incurring new debts of $1 million or more without a public vote. Voters approved that measure with 57.73 percent in favor.
     Only a golf-course initiative, limiting city-owned courses to no more than one, failed, with more than 65 percent of voters opposed.
     Harris claims that she, Rapp, Jensen and Douglass proposed the debt-limiting ballot initiative because the City Council "refused to address the issue of limiting Boulder City's debt obligations."
     The plaintiffs say term limits became necessary when the City Council routinely appointed the same residents to the same positions on city committees, commissions and other public bodies for several years. Now they cannot be appointed to the same public body for more than 12 years.
     The Nevada Supreme Court on Jan. 28 dismissed the three lawsuits filed by Boulder City, finding they violate the state's anti-SLAPP law. The court sent the cases back to Clark County District Court to determine the amount Boulder City will have to pay to cover defendants' costs.
     In the three new lawsuits, the petitioners each seek damages of more than $10,000, consequential and incidental damages and legal fees.
     They are represented by Tracy Strickland in Clark County Court.
     Boulder City, pop. 15,000, is east of Las Vegas.