For those who watch or attend the Mesquite City Council meetings you may be familiar with private citizen Adam Leverenz who frequently makes public comment before and after the formal proceedings, often complaining about Mayor Al Litman and other elected officials.
I won’t explain Leverenz’s feud with the city in too much detail because that’s not the point, at this point. Suffice it to say, his complaints go back 10 years. In spite of several attempts by the city attorney, current and former councilmen — and the mayor — Leverenz does not want to give up the fight.
Leverenz has a right to make public comment at public meetings and basically say whatever he wants to say. All of us do. He is polite, succinct and often times quotes or references laws and city ordinances in stating his case. Whether you agree with him or not, is not the point.
Elected officials are bound by their election to put up with a lot of criticism, and quite frankly, by people who may distort the facts and sometimes lie about them. That’s the nature of being elected. Officials can choose to respond to the criticisms, distortions, and mistruths, or they can ignore them.
But no elected official, including the mayor, has any right whatsoever to use his position and city resources in an effort to silence the person by threatening them with police action.
Email correspondence between Mayor Litman and Leverenz show that’s what the mayor tried to do last month.
Following his usual pattern, Leverenz made public comment at the Jan. 28 council meeting and targeted Litman specifically. Leverenz called the mayor deceptive and vindictive, accused him of lying and suggested the mayor resign.
That happens to elected officials all the time at all levels of government. It’s the nature of the position.
That’s not the point.
However, Litman went a step too far in his response, sending an email to Leverenz two days later, Jan. 30, with the subject line, “I’m not quite finished with you.”
In the text, Litman said, “My integrity is beyond reproach. I have absolutely no criminal record. No legal actions against me EVER. You are a convicted stalker. You have been rejected by every mayor and council since 2010. I can only tell you you are again going down the wrong trail.
If I perceive a threat against me I can get a restraining order against you and will. If that’s what you want, you will get it. It’s as simple as that. Violate it and you suffer the consequences. That’s the law, so obey it.
As to what you want me to do, I will be the mayor for the next four years following this term. Doubt it? Stick around and see.”
According to the Mesquite Police Department, Leverenz has been convicted of two misdemeanor charges of stalking. However, the police chief confirmed to me that Litman has never filed a formal complaint against Leverenz or registered any actual threats against him by Leverenz.
Leverenz responded to the Mayor’s email saying, “I intended nothing I said at the January 28, 2020 Regular Council meeting, or at any other meeting for that matter, as any form of threat. I apologize if any of my public comment came across as threatening to you. If you’d clarify what was said, that you perceived as threatening, that may be helpful for both of us going forward.”
Leverenz also suggested in writing that the mayor announce his resignation at the State of the City address scheduled for Feb. 12.
Following up, Litman responded to Leverenz in an email, “your comments at the council meeting could be taken as a personal threat. If this continues I will remove you from the council meeting. If you want to file a protest with the attorney general, it’s your choice. I also will be having two officers sitting on either side of you.”
The email correspondence stopped when Litman said in an email to Leverenz, “This will be my last correspondence with you as I will be blocking all future e-mails. Before I go, however, I urge you to carefully read Nevada Revised Statutes 199.300 I believe it says it all.”
Now, here’s the point.
Litman tried to silence his long-time critic by threatening to use his elected position and city resources in an intimidating way. Thankfully, the police department told me that even if the mayor had asked to have police officers assigned to sit on either side of Leverenz at every city council meeting, they would never comply with that kind of request.
Many of you may not remember that another mayor, Susan Holecheck, used her position and the police in 2010 to silence citizens who were outraged when she cancelled the annual citywide Boy Scout food drive.
Residents quickly organized a reply to the then-mayor’s ludicrous decision by staging a silent protest at the next city council meeting. Everyone was asked to bring a food donation that otherwise would have been left at their doorsteps for the Boy Scouts to pick up and place it on the table in council chambers.
At the meeting, more than 100 citizens showed up at the doors to City Hall with more than 800 pounds of food. They were met by armed police officers at each entrance, preventing them from entering and ordering them to leave the food donations at the door. Yes, the police officers, by instruction of the mayor who wanted to silence her critics, threatened to arrest any private citizen who attempted to sidestep their orders.
I know. I was one who was almost arrested for wanting to silently voice my opinion. My husband yanked me by the collar away from the officers or I believe I would have been arrested.
Elected officials may not like everything that is said about them or to them. They probably don’t agree with the criticism. More than likely they want their critics to stop and go away.
But private citizens have a right, profound right, to speak in public their criticisms, complaints, opinions, and maybe even compliments without fear of intimidation, coercion, threats, or arrests.
If an elected official really feels threatened then the only true recourse is to file an official, formal complaint with the police department and let the professionals handle it – preferably not at the front doors of city hall.
Otherwise, the best advice to elected officials is to shut up and take it. Or get off the dais.
That’s the point.