The selection of three finalists for the vacant Ward 5 Reno City Council seat is revealing some of the ties that bind sitting council members to the candidates. Some said those ties are red flags.
Alex Goff, Elliot Malin and Kathleen Taylor on Aug. 25 were selected by council members as finalists to replace Neoma Jardon who resigned from her council seat in mid-August.
Reno resident Beth Dory, who’s railed against council members in the past for what she said was their lack of accountability, today said there was a ringer in the pack of candidates: Alex Goff.
“He is definitely a darling of the special interest group,” Dory said. “He got money from both Hillary Schieve and Devon Reese. But I think [what is] really interesting is he got money from the attorney for Jeff Jacobs.”
Goff ran unsuccessfully for Assembly District 25 in the June primary. In his candidate contribution filing he listed donations from Devon Reese, Friends of Hillary Schieve and Lewis Roca, the law firm where Jacobs Entertainment attorney Garrett Gordon is a partner.
Goff said he supports both transparency and timely reporting and doesn’t think the contributions are an issue.
“I don’t believe any individual contributor should get any special access; I would never do that,” he said. “When I received the contribution from Lewis Roca I had no conversations with Garrett Gordon.”
He also said the contributions were accepted with a goal of taking the lead in what was expected to be a close primary and a close general election. Goff earned just 35% of the votes against his competitor, who took the other 65%.
Some residents spoke out against Kathleen Taylor as well. Taylor has been a member of the Reno Planning Commission since July 2019, filling the at-large seat which is nominated by the city manager or the council member representing the seat’s ward – Devon Reese. She was nominated to the commission by former City Manager Sabra Newby and Reese seconded the motion to approve her to the role.
Resident Chuck Walker said Taylor isn’t right for the role.
“Kathleen has an impressive resume but I also see some red flags,” Walker said. “During her time as a member on the planning commission multiple controversial decisions have been made focused in support of developers, short-term construction employment, enhanced tax base rather than focusing on the long-term value for the residents of Reno.”
Taylor responded that she is “in support of thoughtful development, investment in all our communities and … excited to see a mix of housing, employment and services in the region.”
Malin, the council’s third selection, has spoken in front of council members a number of times in favor of clients of his lobbying firm. He has represented clients from the blockchain and cannabis industries – both areas of interest for Mayor Hillary Schieve – in the past.
Malin said he hasn’t worked for many of the industries listed on his website for months, if not longer, and is now only working with two pro bono clients – Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Nevada.
He said he recognized the potential for allegations that he was favoring special interests because of his work early on and paused the rest of his lobbying work when he submitted his application for the council seat.
“I’m committed to stepping back from lobbying to represent my ward and neighbors,” Malin said, adding that he did so “because of the process. Because I thought it was fair and the right thing to do.”
“I think we’re all kind of freaked out with all the special interest impacts that the council has and the results of that,” Dory said.
Thirty-six residents of Ward 5 applied for the vacancy. Each of the three finalists received votes from four of the five council members who were present at the meeting. Both Reese and Schieve selected Goff, Taylor and Malin as top candidates.
A group of Ward 5 residents led by Gary Cecil, and from neighborhoods across the ward, were asked to provide input to council members on their top choices for the seat from among the candidates. Only one of the finalists – Kathleen Taylor – made the resident group’s shortlist, and she was at the bottom.
Many people who provided public comment to council members also championed other candidates. Among the most promoted were attorney Joel Santos and STEM educator and diversity advocate Tara Webster.
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.