A Nevada Supreme Court ruling will prevent Mayor Roger Tobler from seeking re-election in 2015, officials say.
The Feb. 20 ruling clarified what the Supreme Court said was an “ambiguous” section of the Nevada Constitution establishing 12-year term limits for state offices and local governing bodies.
The court ruled that in Reno, where the mayor is considered a member of the City Council, term-limited members may not run for mayor.
“Based on the provisions of the Reno City Charter, we conclude that the Reno mayor is a member of the ‘local governing body,’ subject to the same limitations that apply to the other city council members,” Justice James Hardesty wrote in the majority opinion.
The decision affects Boulder City, where the city charter defines the mayor as a member of the council, City Attorney Dave Olsen said.
“(The court) pretty much clarified the direction they’re going,” Olsen said. “I think if (Tobler) wanted to run he would be precluded from doing so.”
Tobler served one four-year term on the council, 2003-07, and when his second term as mayor ends next year, he will have served 12 years under the court’s interpretation.
The court’s decision, however, may not be the final word on the matter. Former Reno City Councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza asked the court to rehear its 5-2 decision. Sferrazza was one of two term-limited council members targeted in the original lawsuit filed by George “Eddie” Lorton, a Reno citizen who intends to run for mayor.
In the petition by her lawyer, Bradley Schrager, Sferrazza said the majority of the court did not consider a “long list of cases” that found the right to hold public office is constitutional and “ambiguity must be resolved, in favor of eligibility.”
Lorton sued Reno City Clerk Lynette Jones and Washoe County Registrar and Chief Elections Officer Dan Burk to prevent Sferrazza and current Councilman Dwight Dortch from being placed on the 2014 mayoral ballot.
Still, Sferrazza’s chances of receiving a rehearing are slim. Although many losing parties request rehearings, they rarely are granted, Supreme Court spokesman Bill Gang said.
Tobler said Friday he was considering running for a third term, but wasn’t upset by the court’s decision.
“I was thinking about (running in 2015),” he said. “The (Interstate 11) is coming in and I would like to see a few things through, but at the same time I’ve been in 12 years and I’ll be OK with it.”
Tobler said there is still “plenty of work to do” before his term is over and, once it is, he is confident the city will remain “in good hands.”
“There’s plenty of good and qualified people here in town to step in,” Tobler said.
The ruling will not affect Boulder City’s other elected officials. Council members Cam Walker and Duncan McCoy were elected to their second four-year terms last year, and Rod Woodbury and Peggy Leavitt were elected to their first terms in 2011.
The ruling also affects Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen, who was first elected mayor in 2009 after serving on the Henderson City Council since 1987.
Las Vegas Review-Journal Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel contributed to this article.