A court hearing today considered whether Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus is eligible to run for mayor.
Brekhus is being challenged by William Mantle, also a mayoral candidate, who said he filed a challenge against Brekhus citing term limits.
Brekhus has been on the council for 10 years, and her term expires in 2024.
If she were to get elected mayor in November, she will then serve another four years as mayor.
But does the term limit of 12 years apply to the position change from council member to mayor?
That’s one of two key points argued today in front of Second Judicial Court Judge Connie Steinheimer.
“[The Nevada Constitution] doesn’t take into account whether the person can run into a different position in the same public body in the middle of their term. That’s a brand new situation for the court,” Luke Busby, Brekhus’ attorney, said. “The court has never ruled on this issue.”
They also cited the case from 2014 when a candidate for mayor challenged then council member Jessica Sferrazza who, the court determined, was termed out of office and ineligible to run for mayor.
The challenger, Eddie Lorton, successfully got Sferrazza off the ballot, which then enabled Hillary Schieve to get elected.
But the 2014 Nevada Supreme Court decision left unresolved issues. Brekhus’ attorneys and City Attorney Karl Hall both said the issue in this case is unclear.
Brekhus’ attorneys also said Mantle’s challenge of Brekhus’ candidacy was too late and should be tossed. Mantle, in return, said he sought guidance from the Secretary of State’s office, which passed him on to Washoe County. Washoe County in turn told him to address the matter through the City of Reno.
That timeline, according to Brekhus, is past the legally required timeframe to file a challenge.
Mantle said he was in a Catch-22 situation – could not file a challenge with the city until after what Brekhus is saying was the deadline. He said his challenge was made in accordance with what the Reno City Clerk allowed.
“The statute actually says the ‘filing office,’” he said of where he filed his challenge. “It doesn’t specify the Nevada Secretary of State, the country registrar or [city] clerk. It was my understanding the filing office is ultimately the Secretary of State’s office. I was told everything was fine at that time.”
He was later told he had to address the matter at the county. The county directed him to the city clerk.
“It was impossible for me to file a challenge in the timeframe they suggested to also conform with the challenge that I could legally file with the city clerk’s office,” he said. “[The city clerk] can only accept a challenge five days after the last day to withdraw candidacy.”
Mantle further alleged Brekhus is ineligible because she remains a sitting council member.
“Eligibility is determined at the time of filing,” he said. “If Ms. Brekhus would’ve chosen to resign from office at the time of her filing, this also would not have been an issue.”
Hall filed a brief in the case. He said he was not involved in providing advice in this case to the city clerk but said the challenge needs clarity.
“This is an issue that needs to be determined by the court,” he said.
Washoe District Court Judge Connie Steinheimer said she would issue an order on the case as soon as possible.
Disclosure: Busby is representing This Is Reno in our public records lawsuit against the Reno Police Department.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.