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Rant from City Council’s Reese draws open meeting law complaint 

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An open meeting law complaint was filed this week against Reno City Council member Devon Reese for comments he made during a heated April 10 council meeting. The complaint alleges Reese, during a discussion of the potential sale of the Community Assistance Center property, veered off topic and made disparaging remarks about another council member and the city attorney. 

“Mr. Reese used his time to discuss the recent lawsuit with Councilperson Jenny Brekhus v. Reno and further disparage his colleague and journalists,” the complaint alleges. “Mr. Reese was interrupted twice by the City of Reno Attorney, Mr. Hall, who asked Mr. Reese to stay on topic. Mr. Reese twice ignored the City Attorney’s request.”

Reese’s comments came more than halfway through the contentious 11-hour meeting and followed more than 90 minutes of public comment and council member frustrations over an unsolicited proposal to purchase the former homeless shelter. 

“Mr. Reese’s comments were not substantially related to the agenda item, although he tried to make it so,” the complaint alleges. “As a member of the public, I was damaged by Mr. Reese’s comments as I did not have an opportunity to submit a timely public comment regarding the lawsuit, Mr. Reese’s disparaging personal remarks, or the competency of the City attorney. All are items of great public interest.”

At the meeting’s start, public commenters and Council member Brekhus expressed concern that despite months of requests for the council to discuss potential uses for the CAC, the topic wasn’t included on a meeting agenda until the purchase proposal was received. 

This Is Reno reported on the proposal the day before the meeting, noting that the developer had been sharing details on the project with city staff for months. 

“I won’t support an agenda that jumps a member duly elected to have a discussion here on a topic over someone else’s proposal that now I’ve learned has been in discussion with staff since July of ‘23,” Brekhus said. “I’m troubled by that. I want to talk about the CAC, but I want to talk about it in the context of process and ideas and not a transactional item.” 

“I’m a lawyer just like you and I think I know what is on the topic.”

By the time the council had reached the agenda item, the meeting had been underway for six hours. Reese, who was participating in the meeting virtually, said he was frustrated by the “political theater” of “a member” of the council. He often uses “member” or “Ward 1 Council member” to refer to Brekhus.

“The problem is we have a member who continually says things that are not true,” he said. “That same member has sued us and today we found out from Judge Hardy that they lost in court. And that member continues to spread disinformation.

“We all have differences of opinions, but one member continues to lie about things … that is the kind of theater that I think our public becomes discordant by. It is the kind of theater that becomes click-bait for pseudo-journalists…”

At that point, City Attorney Karl Hall cut Reese off, asking him to stay on the agenda topic. 

“I will use the time that I have to speak about the issues as I see them without regard to your comment,” Reese responded. “You seem to get involved in comments when you want to but not when they’re needed. I’m a lawyer just like you and I think I know what is on the topic.”

Hall made a second request to Reese, who then continued to justify his comments. 

Nevada’s open meeting law requires that meeting agendas clearly and completely outline the topics of discussion, and public body officials must stick to the agenda. The Attorney General’s open meeting law handbook notes, “Discussions may start on an agenda item but then drift off into other matters … The chair for a public meeting or its counsel should be vigilant to stop the discussion from drifting in order to prevent Open Meeting Law violations.”

If a person’s character or competence will be discussed at the meeting, written notice must also be given to that person.  

The complainant said in the filing that Reese should be fined for the violation to “hold him accountable for his actions.” 

“He has a negative history relating to following the laws imposed upon him,” the complainant wrote. “He recently pled the equivalent of ‘no contest’ to the NV Ethics Commission. He was required to take training as a result of that plea/agreement.”

Listen to Reese’s comments in the video below.

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
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.

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