BOULDER CITY, Nev. -- Clean, serene Boulder City is embroiled in a political civil war.
The city's chief of police, Tom Finn, has filed numerous ethics complaints against the city council, city manager and city attorney, alleging all sorts of unethical behavior.
Finn, who has been on extended medical leave, expects to be fired when he returns to work.
He said he has been forced out, in part, because he's a Catholic.
It isn't often a police chief goes to war with his city bosses and accuses them of religious persecution, but Chief Finn said this is a situation like the emperor's new clothes--something everyone knows, but no one admits.
About 16 percent of Boulder City residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints, but the Mormons control just about every position of political power.
The mayor and all but one of the city council members are Mormon.
The city manager they hired is Mormon.
So is the city attorney.
The state assemblywomen for the area is Mormon.
So is the state senator. So is the county commissioner. The new interim police chief isn't Mormon, but he's married to a relative of a Mormon councilwoman.
In fact, many of these officials are related by marriage or blood and Finn said one reason they wanted him out is because he doesn't worship at the same church as the rest of them.
"They are trying to blame everything on me," Finn said. "I'm surprised they haven't blamed the Lindbergh kidnapping on me, but I'm sure that's coming."
Finn has good reasons to be a bit gun-shy these days. Finn finds himself in the middle of a legal and ethical firefight, with potshots whizzing toward and from every power player in his seemingly sleepy town. Finn has been on medical leave for several weeks but when he returns to work April 15, he is pretty sure he will be fired.
His attorney said city leaders have been plotting Finn's demise for months and have compiled a long list of flimsy or manufactured excuses.
"I think they had a result in mind and they needed a way to get there," Finn's attorney, Sean Flanagan, said.
City Attorney Dave Olsen is one of the main players in the scheme, Finn said. Olsen said the chief is delusional.
"I am still baffled about this, because no one here in City Hall has ever had any type of animosity towards the chief of police," Olsen said. "I never heard anyone say they wanted the chief to be fired, or it was time for him to go."
But in court documents and ethics complaints filed by Finn, the chief has compiled evidence concerning three separate internal investigations by the city, a vote by the council requesting a criminal probe, and testimony about Mayor Roger Tobler and councilman Cam Walker, both reassuring the city manager to punish or fire Finn. Finn has fired back with several ethics complaints and his own lawsuit.
"For someone just to destroy my career the way they have done it, no, I am not going away quietly," Finn said. "I am going to stand up to them."
Finn's battle with the city power structure came to a head last summer when city leaders welcomed the Mongols, an outlaw motorcycle club to town for their national meeting. Fallout from that event led Finn to openly question what the former city manager calls 'the Mormon thing," that is, the dominance of local government by Mormons. In Boulder City, Mormons make up about 16 percent of the town's population, but hold nearly all of the political cards.
Many of the leaders not only attend the same church, but are related by blood or marriage. Imagine the fuss if any other local government were so dominated by a single faith or ethnic group, Finn said.
"It becomes almost a fiefdom of your family and friends," Finn attorney Flanagan said.
Councilman Walker is no stranger to allegations of religious preference. In the late 1990s, he and his father-in-law, the late Bob Broadbent, were partners in the ill-fated Las Vegas Monorail project. Their board of directors was entirely Mormon. Walker hired his brother as company spokesman.
"It's not entirely an accident that some are related by family, but it's not a focus of this company," Walker said in a 2004 interview. "We hire people based on trust."
Walker works as the director of business development for a major construction company. The company did $144 million worth of work for the Clark County School District at a time when Walker was on the bond committee financing the work. Last year, the councilman cast a vote regarding a billion dollar solar project to be built on city land, a project his employer is trying to land. His fellow Mormon, Dave Olsen, said there was no ethical conflict.
Dave Olsen: "Mr. Walker did not have a personal financial interest in this."
I-Team: "His company is bidding on this?"
I-Team: "And he votes on the project? Right? He doesn't have a financial interest? He's the director of business development."
Olsen: "That is correct, but on this, Mr. Walker wasn't involved in any way, shape or form."
Whether it was proper for Walker to vote on the solar project will be decided by ethics officials, because it is one of several ethics complaints filed by Finn against most of the town's leaders.
Is this group -- the city attorney, city manager and Councilman Walker -- working together to get rid of Finn? When the I-Team showed up to interview Olsen, a full production crew from the city was there to record their own version. Olsen said they might want to air it on their city channel. But about 20 minutes into what became a heated exchange, a woman interrupted. She's the personal secretary to the city manager and she informed Olsen that it was time to leave, because he had, the, uh, thing. Olsen got up to leave, but forgot he was still wearing the I-Team's microphone.
"Cam and Dave Fraser wanted me to pull you out of there and tell you it's time to stop now," the secretary could be heard saying.
"Oh, OK," Olsen responds.
From that, the I-Team learned City Manager Dave Fraser and Walker were watching the interview from somewhere else and decided Olsen had said enough. Walker did not respond to the I-Team's request for an interview.
What brought all of this political intrigue to a head? A bunch of bikers who roared into town last summer. That part of the story Friday at 5 p.m.
Monday, September 1 2014 6:06 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:06:07 GMT
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