Nevada Local GOP honchos threaten town board with arrest

citizensarrestnvIt might have been wise for members of the Pahrump town board to bring bail money to Tuesday night’s regular meeting.

The Nye County Republican Central Committee NCRCC threatened to perform citizen’s arrests on any board member and town staff who play any role authorizing the repeal of Pahrump Town Ordinance PTO 46.

NCRCC officers claim the ordinance is an obstacle in the way of the town board’s attempt to incorporate Pahrump into a city.

An item on last night’s agenda would specifically nix PTO 46.

NCRCC Chairman Bill Carns said he believes that the board has no authority to repeal the ordinance, which was approved by the town back in 2005.

He also noted that numerous Nevada Revised Statutes NRS support his organization’s claim that any attempt to repeal PTO 46 would be in violation of the law.

“PTO 46 specifically states that the Pahrump town board cannot repeal it. Before it can be repealed, it must go to a vote of the people of Pahrump. I told Town Manager Bill Kohbarger that there are only two ways to repeal PTO 46. One is by a vote of the people; the second is not to have an attorney or district attorney or even the state attorney general render an opinion. They must go to a court of competent jurisdiction in order to be told that certain provisions are illegal/unconstitutional and then to advise the Pahrump town board on how to act. The Pahrump town board is a legislative body, not an executive body, or a judicial body. Only a judicial body can rule on the constitutionality of a law or in this case a town ordinance,” he said.

Interestingly, the NCRCC does have the support of Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo.

On Monday, DeMeo said he told Kohbarger that his office will uphold the law as it relates to NCRCC’s assertion that repealing the ordinance would be a violation of state law.

“In Nevada, people have the right to make a citizen’s arrest. It’s a gross misdemeanor for me to refuse to receive anyone in my jail that is charged with a criminal offense. I hope that cooler minds would prevail, but actually if these people town board members are committing an offense and the NCRCC articulates the offense to us, and they sign the form that these people are under arrest, then they are under arrest so they go jail. I don’t want it to come to that type of situation,” DeMeo said.

An email from Town Attorney Bret F. Meich to Carns, Kohbarger, town board members, DeMeo, and District Attorney Brian Kunzi stated that PTO 46 should not have been passed in the first place because it is unconstitutional; it prohibits citizens from expressing their First Amendment rights and is in direct violation of state law.

The ordinance in part states, “It shall be unlawful for any person, group of persons, entity, or corporation to file a petition for incorporation which includes an area of the unincorporated Town of Pahrump that does not include the entire area of the town,” the email stated.

To lend credence to his argument, Meich cited a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that appears to support the position of the town board.

“This attempt to criminalize or otherwise prohibit one’s right to express views contrary to those of a local government entity is an unlawful infringement of constitutional freedoms . . . T he U.S. Supreme Court concluded that petition circulation is core political speech for which First Amendment protection is at its zenith. By its letter the NCRCC has endorsed an unconstitutional restriction on core political speech protected by the First Amendment. Contrary to your position, the citizens of Pahrump should be allowed to express their views by petitioning for incorporation in accordance with state law,” he wrote.

Meich added that in order for a legitimate citizen’s arrest to take place, according to NRS 171.126, one must have committed a public offense, which does not include the repeal of an unconstitutional ordinance.

“The doctrine of official immunity protects public officials from actions based upon discretionary functions taken in the course of their official duties,” he cited.

Kohbarger, meanwhile, expanded on Meich’s argument by saying the act of repealing PTO 46 stands in line with Nevada law.

“It’s a good repeal effort. PTO 46 has a lot of issues. Number one, it contradicts state law. Two, it is arbitrary and capricious. Three, the ordinance cannot tell or limit the power of a future town board, which is exactly what that ordinance does,” he said.

Kohbarger noted that NCRCC could have handled the issue in a more positive and respectful manner as opposed to threatening to arrest members of the town board who support the repeal.

He added that there could be serious repercussions if the arrests are not valid.

“If they wanted to come in and talk, then we would have sat down with them. But to threaten somebody with a citizen’s arrest because you’re not getting your way is ridiculous. Citizens can make an arrest if they have probable cause and if it’s a lawful arrest. If they don’t, then they fall under the same guidelines as any police officer or anybody else will fall under for false arrest. They can be sued and possibly criminal charges will be filed against them,” he said.

While Carns claims that board Chair Vicky Parker is doing an illegal end-run on the rights of the people who live in the town of Pahrump, Kohbarger said another item of business on the town board agenda will allow for the complete discussion and possible decision to establish a town policy in favor of the public’s right to vote for or against any effort to incorporate the town.

“The only way you can incorporate a town is to follow the NRS as written. I can tell you for a fact that this town board is not superseding or end-running anything. With this town board, any incorporation must be voted on by the entire citizens of Pahrump who are registered voters so they are making a stand right there. The town board is telling everybody that they are not end-running anything. If you want incorporation for this town, it must be on a ballot and voted on by the citizens of this community. The town board has absolutely nothing to do with incorporation. It is following state law,” he said.

Parker said she will stand her ground on the issue of repealing the ordinance in spite of the NCRCC’s threats of incarceration.

“They are deadly serious. According to our attorney if they are going to make a citizen’s arrest they have to do it at the meeting because the law states that the offense has to happen in their presence and they consider us voting to repeal the ordinance an illegal offense and we have to be arrested. You can’t arrest people because they vote opposite the way you want them to. It’s pure intimidation. I was told by town board member Harley Kulkin that there is a petition around town with six names on it that have been deputized by the NCRCC to arrest us, and this is laughable. I’m afraid that I may wind up spending the night in jail and I’m not backing down. I’m not going to be intimidated and harassed,” she said.

Parker noted that if push comes to shove, and the repeal is passed, she will not put up a fight with members of the NCRCC or the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

“Do I have a choice? They are all bigger and stronger than me and they have guns. Think about it. It’s hard to fathom. Tony DeMeo is very much against incorporation. If we were going to incorporate we could cut a deal with Las Vegas Metro or if we cut a deal with him, he has to do what we say because he’s a rent-a-cop. That is why he is so adamant against it. Right now, it is all over town that I am going to jail. Meanwhile, I’m just trying to get rid of an ordinance that is unconstitutional,” she said.

If members of the town board are arrested, DeMeo said depending on how busy the jail staff is, the detainees could possibly make bail and go home within a few hours.

“First of all, we have to take care of the inmates that are already there. The booking process usually takes about 45 minutes per person. Unless they bail out right then and there where somebody has a fistful of dollars, they go through the process anyway. No one can bail out until they are booked,” he noted.

Kulkin meanwhile said he finds it interesting that the NCRCC is taking such a strong stance on an issue that is alienating other Republicans in town.

“I find it rather strange that these people who claim to believe so much in the Constitution and all people’s rights seem to have no problem with stepping on people’s rights that don’t agree with them,” he said.

Kulkin noted that he will not be intimidated by any members of the NCRCC at the meeting.

“I would just say that they should be well aware that a citizen has a right to resist an unlawful arrest. I will resist an unlawful arrest. You bet I will,” he said.

Kunzi did not return phone calls requesting comment on the matter.

Citizen's Arrest at Town Board June 13th, 2012

Link to the original article on Pahrump Valley Times

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