Ex-lawmaker’s final vote questioned after move from Vegas
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Shortly before being appointed as a rural Nevada judge last month over a deep pool of applicants, then-Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore insisted to county officials that she was eligible for the judgeship because she had met the qualifications to be considered a local resident.
But Fiore had continued her role on the City Council after her move to Nye County through the end of her term on Dec. 7, attending four meetings as councilwoman while living in the small desert town of Pahrump, near the California border.
Her dual role as a Pahrump resident and councilwoman could have violated a Las Vegas city code that requires all members of the City Council to live in the ward they represent. Fiore’s move has also raised questions of whether she lived in Nye County long enough before taking the justice of the peace role.
Now, the former state treasurer candidate is at the center of inquiries that could threaten to vacate both her final city council vote and her new judgeship.
Four residents of the Las Vegas ward she represented have asked the city council to nullify her Nov. 16 vote to approve a controversial land-use project for a convenience store that passed 4-3. The vote took place a day after she put money down on a rental house in Pahrump.
The Las Vegas city attorney’s office declined to comment aside from sharing the complaints.
In Pahrump, former longshot U.S. Senate candidate William Hockstedler, who had applied for the same justice of the peace position, asked the Nye County District Attorney’s office to recall Fiore’s appointment.
Hockstedler, in a letter to the office, cited an opinion from the state of Nevada that states candidates for office, including justice of the peace, must live within the jurisdiction for at least 30 days before the deadline for the “declarations of candidacy or acceptances for the office.”
The judicial application deadline was Dec. 8. Fiore, in a pitch last month to Nye County commissioners for the judgeship, said the “exact date” she moved to Pahrump was Nov. 15.
But in a statement Friday evening, Nye County’s top prosecutor defended Fiore’s appointment, saying the 30-day requirement applies only to candidates elected to office.
“The only requirement” for appointees, said District Attorney Brian Kunzi, is that they “must be eligible to vote when he or she is appointed to a township office.” Kunzi was elected in November.
The Nevada Current first reported the potential city code and state opinion violation.
Fiore now claims she signed a check for a Pahrump rental house on Nov. 15 but she did not stay overnight at her new home until two days later, according to a letter her attorney Sigal Chattah sent Tuesday to the Las Vegas city attorney. The letter also noted that Fiore’s final city council vote came one day before she would “spend her first night in Pahrump.”
She was selected unanimously at a December meeting to fill the seat on the Pahrump Justice Court through 2024 despite not having a law degree, which is not a requirement. Pahrump is located about 65 miles (100 kilometers) west of Las Vegas in deep-red Nye County, which former President Donald Trump won in 2016 and 2020.
Trump endorsed Fiore for the judgeship, saying she would “make an absolute fantastic Justice of the Peace,” according to a letter read by a Nye County commissioner at the meeting.
Her appointment over nearly 20 applicants marks the latest chapter in a decade-long political career marked by scandal – including reports of an FBI probe into her campaign finances and accusations of physical assault.
FBI agents subpoenaed records and searched Fiore’s home last year in northwest Las Vegas in connection with her campaign spending, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
And earlier this year, she was sued by fellow Las Vegas Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, who accused Fiore of breaking her finger in a physical fight at City Hall in January. The two were once good friends and close political allies. Fiore’s campaign told the Reno Gazette Journal the lawsuit was an attempt by “liberal Republicans” to hurt her chances of winning the state treasurer race in November.
Chattah, Fiore’s counsel, frequently appeared alongside Fiore on the campaign trail last year while running unsuccessfully for state Attorney General. Chattah is now running to become the Nevada Republican Party’s next national committeewoman — a position that Fiore left due to her judicial appointment.
Stern, who reported from Reno, Nevada, is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.