Tireless community activist Sam Dehne has been showing some of his old fire in recent weeks. But he’s kind of impatient with the rest of us.
Dehne, a persistent thorn in the side of local governments who has sometimes triumphed over those governments, filed a flurry of legal challenges to official actions by the Airport Authority of Washoe County, the Reno City Council and Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller.
On July 9, Dehne filed a complaint with Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval accusing officers of the Washoe County Airport Authority of conducting business on July 8 even though their terms as officers had expired on July 1.
On July 14, Dehne filed a complaint with Sandoval contending that Secretary of State Dean Heller’s participation in a weekly radio program constitutes a violation of Nevada Revised Statute 281.481, which says, “A public officer shall not use his position in government to secure unwarranted privileges, preferences … or advantages to himself.”
On July 23, Dehne filed a complaint with Sandoval that argued the Reno City Council violated the open-meeting law at its meeting that day. His complaint says that the council went from an open session to a closed one, then came back into open session and suddenly started voting in lockstep. Dehne argues that this indicates the council members reached a consensus in the closed session, enabling them to sing in unison in open session.
But then Dehne wrote to Sandoval again and withdrew the July 23 complaint with a shot at public, media, and officialdom.
“I’m kinda tired of being the curmudgeon and making all the bureaucrats mad at me. And I’m kinda tired of fighting everybody else’s battles. Nobody else—county commission, folks from Cold Springs, Reno Gazette-Journal and rest of media, A.G., etc., etc., seems to care about this. So why should I?”
As it happens, Dehne chose to withdraw the one complaint with the greatest chance of success, since the attorney general’s authority over open-meeting issues is clear. Whether the A.G. has any statutory power in the case of the airport authority rules is far from certain.
Dehne is now a candidate for the Reno city council, though he says he wants to lose to his favorite member, Jessica Sferrazza.