Washoe County Assessor Mike Clark claims Commissioner Bob Lucey threatened him in order to get Clark to drop out of an election. Lucey says he merely mentioned a problem on Clark’s candidate filing out of professional courtesy.
“Mr. Lucey called and threatened me,” Clark said in a phone call with the RGJ.
“I made a sheriff’s report (Wednesday). I’m making a report to the DA. I’m making a report to the (Washoe County) HR department,” Clark said. “The threat was you either drop out of the race or we’re gonna get you for perjury and for fraudulent activities. And he just went on and on and on with all the trouble I could end up in.
“I gotta be honest, it scared me. I had to quickly call my attorney and have people start looking into it because it sounded pretty scary.”
Lucey said there was no threat.
“I basically shared information, you know, just as a professional courtesy,” Lucey said in a phone call. “If I have found that threatening or anything like that, that’s his own personal opinion of him, but I just shared information with him. I didn’t threaten him.”
DMV party affiliation change
The information Lucey shared was related to Clark’s filing to run against Lucey in the election to represent District 2 covering south Reno and Washoe Valley. Both are Republicans.
Clark had changed his party affiliation back to Republican in February after the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles’ automatic voter registration system designated him as nonpartisan.
The county’s candidate filing form asks candidates to attest, under penalty of perjury, that they have not changed their party affiliation since Dec. 30, 2021. This prompted Lucey’s call to Clark and then his filing of a complaint that Clark’s sworn candidate statement was ” untrue.”
The cascade of events leading to this started in May 2021 when Clark’s voter registration was canceled in Washoe County after he moved to Douglas County and registered to vote there, according to Washoe County spokesperson Bethany Drysdale in an email. The next record shows he moved back to Washoe County in October and was automatically registered to vote through the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
“We sent a voter notification card to him to confirm his (voter) registration on October 28, 2021,” Drysdale said. “We have no record of him returning it.”
Clark said he “absolutely never received it.”
The next record shows that he updated his voter registration to be a Republican on Feb. 19.
This happened shortly after Clark’s party affiliation was looked up during a precinct meeting for the Washoe County Republican central committee, he said. The record showed he was registered nonpartisan.
“I changed it back instantly,” he said about the surprise news. “I’ve been a registered Republican for over 50 years.”
Clark said he thinks the DMV should not change people’s party affiliation.
“If I’d gone to the DMV specifically to change my voter registration, that would be a different story,” Clark said. “I was there to deal with licensing issues. I have no idea why the state would take me out of a party I’ve been in for 50 years – if that’s what happened. I don’t know. I don’t know if somebody laid this trap for me.
“At the end of the day, I think Mr. Lucey is afraid of running against me.”
Lucey said he’s proud of his record on the county commission and isn’t worried about running against Clark.
“I have to operate within the law and so should everybody else,” he said. “I’d hoped (legal action) could have been avoided and that’s why I gave him a phone call. But he left me with no choice other than to file that petition.”
secretary of state memo
Mark Wlaschin, deputy secretary for elections with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, sent out a memo on Feb. 15 to county clerks and registrars regarding candidates whose party affiliations were changed because of automatic voter registration.
“Since December 1, 2021, there has been at least one candidate whose major political party affiliation was changed by the AVR process through no fault of their own,” it says.
Jennifer Russell of the Secretary of State’s office confirmed the memo is referring to incidents in Clark and Nye counties.
The memo then offers this guidance: “If a candidate of a major political party for partisan office had their party affiliation changed from a major political party to any other party through the AVR process, including by the establishment of a new voter registration in a different county than they had been previously registered, the candidate is eligible to run for office as a representative of that major political party.”
When filling out the candidate form at the Washoe County registrar’s office on March 11 to run for the District 2 commission seat, Clark did not point out an issue with the clause about not having changed party affiliation before he signed it.
Because he’s been a Republican so long, Clark said, he’d forgotten about the issue with his registered party affiliation by the time the candidate filing came along. And because he’s been a candidate before – he’s finishing his second term as Washoe County assessor – he didn’t read the candidate form closely when he filled it out this time.
Lucey said it’s concerning that the county assessor and someone who wants to be a commissioner, overseeing 26 departments and a billion-dollar budget, would sign a declaration under penalty of perjury without validating what he was writing was true.
“That’s a law that’s been on the books since the 1960s,” Lucey said. “It prevents people from manipulating their party status to run in elections. It’s very clear.
“If he’s seeking election as a county commissioner, he should act within the law – especially for someone who’s going around town talking about election integrity. Why wouldn’t you know what you’re doing?”
Clark said he finds it suspicious no one pointed out the problem until the last minute, and that if it’d been mentioned at the time he filed, he would’ve run as a nonpartisan.
“This just adds to the lack of credibility with the register of voters,” he said. “They vetted me the day I went in and filed. They looked me up in the computer. They said I was good to go.”
Drysdale said that it was Clark’s responsibility to file for his candidacy correctly.
“We cannot prevent anyone from filing for office,” she said. “It is incumbent upon the person filing to read and understand the requirements and attest that what they are filing is true.”
Lucey said the Secretary of State office’s memo “doesn’t change the nature of my complaint.”
His petition about Clark’s candidate filing was submitted Wednesday with the Washoe County Registrar of Voters, which forwarded it to the district attorney’s office.
DA spokesperson Michelle Bays said that another entity will investigate the complaint.
“The civil division represents the Assessor’s Office, the County Commission and the Registrar of Voters, so the decision (to refer out the complaint) was made to avoid any appearance of a conflict,” she said in an email.
Attorney Brian Irvine of Dickinson Wright will handle the complaint against Clark, the county announced Friday.
Change in DMV policy
Because of issues like what happened to Clark, the DMV has changed its automatic voter registration policy.
“In the past, the AVR system did default to ‘nonpartisan’ when customers left the political party information blank or marked ‘other’ as their party affiliation without a description,” Brett Fisher of the DMV said in an email to the RGJ.
This was in accordance with the way Nevada counties had asked the DMV to design the automatic voter registration system.
“Counties later asked for the system default function to be removed, so that now when a customer leaves the party affiliation blank, or selects ‘other’ without a write-in description, DMV informs the county clerk that the customer left the political party affiliation blank,” Fisher said. “It’s up to the county clerk to contact the voter about any information left blank.”
The DMV policy change was instituted Oct. 25, the same month Clark had reregistered as a voter in Washoe County.
TPO against Clark
One issue likely to play a role in an election contest involving Clark is a controversy that has altered the normal way of administering assessor duties.
In May of 2021, Clark was physically banned from all county offices after a temporary protection order for alleged harassment was granted. The TPO was later extended for one year and modified to allow him access to the county complex with an escort.
The protection order came in the wake of Clark anonymously sending out a mass mailing using a false return address. It accused specific people in the city of Reno and county commission of “political skullduggery.” The mailing included a photo of a county official in a swimsuit.
Issued by Reno Justice Court, the TPO stated: “The content called into question (Clark’s) professionalism and was replete with innuendo that (the county official in the photo) used her sex to advance her career. (The official was) very concerned because she had no idea who she would send these packets or why.
Clark claimed it was his First Amendment right to share the documents. At the time, he said he didn’t intend to harass anyone and “the things in here are things in this county that people should know about.”
As an elected official, Clark kept his job as assessor and is still serving in that position. The TPO is still in effect.
There are two other candidates in the District 2 race: David Michael Banuelos, a Libertarian; and Keith Lockard, a Democrat.
The only two Republicans in the race – Clark and Lucey – have major differences on the topic of election integrity.
At a March 22 board of commissioners meeting, Lucey was one of four voting down a proposal that would’ve dramatically changed Washoe County’s voting process to paper ballots and hand-counting, as well as add a bigger law enforcement presence at voting sites.
He said he agreed with parts of Commissioner Jeanne Herman’s plan – such as improving the process to update voter rolls – but found much of it unnecessary and in violation of state and federal law.
“I have no interest in moving to paper ballots, especially in a county with 300,000 registered voters,” Lucey said. “When we don’t have the staff capability, it’s not something we can do nor should we do. It’s not viable, and there is no proof of election fraud that has been provided to me.”
Clark sees big election integrity issues, starting with his own experience having his 50-year status as a Republican changed.
“This ties right back into the major issues that are playing out in our county right now over voter-roll integrity,” he said. “If lots of people miss that box (on the DMV form), how can they ever have a baseline point of accuracy” at the country registrar’s office and the Secretary of State?
Clark said that on Friday, he plans to make a complaint in person about Lucey to the state attorney general.
“I’ve hired an attorney,” he said. “I hope I get my day in court.”
Mark Robison covers local government for the Reno Gazette-Journal, as well as writes Fact Checker and Ask the RGJ articles. His position of him is supported by donations and grants. Because of this, all of the journalism he publishes will be made available for free without concern for commercial return. If you’d like to see more articles like this, please consider sharing this article or donating at RGJ.com/donate.
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