Archive for July, 2009

Chet Adams: Give him credit where credit is due

July 29, 2009

By David Farside

Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by John Ascuaga’s Nugget and 13 other opponents, designed to block the construction of the Lazy 8 casino in Spanish Springs.

In 1994, developer, lobbyist and Reno attorney Harvey Whittemore entered an agreement with the city of Sparks to develop sections of Spanish Springs and to build his Red Hawk resort and casino. It included a legal entitlement to build a hotel casino near his proposed golf course. And, like it or not, it also provided him the right to transfer that entitlement and gaming license to other areas in Sparks.

The plan to build the casino on Pyramid Highway was rejected by both the Sparks Planning Commission and City Council. Red Hawk initiated a $100 million lawsuit against the city. City Attorney, Chet Adams, on behalf of the city of Sparks, settled the suit out of court. Ascuaga and opponents of the project sued the city for settling the suit with Red Hawk, claiming the settlement circumvented the land use and zoning regulations.

Because of conflict of interest and rulings handed down by the Nevada Commission on Ethics, only three members of city council were left to make the final decision before the issue goes before the Regional Planning Commission.

In response to the higher court’s decision, Mayor Geno Martini said he appreciated the hard work of Adams in a press release. He said, “Chet, along with his department, have saved the city millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses and should be congratulated on their commitment to serving the public at large.” And Martini is right, they should all be congratulated.

The possible loss and cost of a $100 million lawsuit could have been a financial nightmare for the city. Although the city does have insurance to cover potential litigation and settlement costs, it would not have been enough to cover any legal judgment against the city of that proportion. Instead, by settling the suit it didn’t cost the city anything. The Nugget and co-plaintiffs were ordered to pay more than $13,000 in court costs to Red Hawk and the City of Sparks. At the time of the settlement with Red Hawk, Adams was criticized by a few politicians and opponents of the project.

But the winds of politics are fickle. It wasn’t long ago when a few council members wanted to replace Adams as city attorney. They supported legislation introduced by Republican Sen. Randolph Townsend that would allow the council to appoint a city attorney of their personal choice rather than have him elected by the people. Adams argued by doing so it created an abrogation of citizens’ rights and that an appointed attorney would and could be fired anytime at the whim of a few disgruntled city council members. He took his case to the press and the proposed legislation was withdrawn.

Philosophically, I have always thought life is just the synchronization of personal experience, expression and self awareness, held eternally captive somewhere within our own individual and imaginary spectrum of time. During that tiny speck of existence between our first breath out at birth and last breath in at the end, we develop our human traits to teach the skills required for the preservation of our species. So, what does that deep thought have to do with politics?

When you are young, living in the political arena of transparency, and make a mistake in your expressions, you become a target. When you are older and demonstrate you have gained the experience to overcome those mistakes, you elevate yourself to the status of a teacher.

As a teacher, you draw on the memories of negative experiences in life to demonstrate the path to overcome them, building human traits of wisdom, understanding and intelligence to be passed down to future generations in the dimension of human propagation. And Adams has done that personally, professionally and politically.

The mayor said it’s time to put the Lazy 8 settlement behind us and that “we should move forward for the betterment of the community.” And I agree.

Adams, responding to the decision, said “he was pleased that his legal advice has been validated by the (Supreme) Court.”

His legal decisions as city attorney have also been validated by the voters of Sparks. He has held the elected position since 1996.

When asked how his sons were doing during our conversation last week, Adams’ voice was filled with parental pride. Recently, his son, Colin, joined the U.S. Marine Corps and his other son, Kyle, is attending the University of Nevada, Reno.

Adams, like most of us during our younger years, has traveled down the road of heartbreak. But now, in his mid-50s, it seems learning by those heartbreaks has provided him the opportunity to become a better human being, a fantastic father to his children and an even more skilled attorney.

Now, instead of some council members trying to replace the city attorney with one of their cronies, they will have more respect for his legal opinions. Now is also the time for the taxpayers of Sparks to give Adams credit where credit is due.