Citizen Complains About Sparks Mayor's Actions

City of Sparks, Nevada
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An investigation is under way into a citizen complaint alleging Sparks Mayor Tony Armstrong violated the Nevada Open Meeting Law before he put up "God Bless America" signs at city hall.

In his complaint filed with the state Attorney General's Office, David Raatz said Armstrong sought and obtained city council approval to display the new signs without an appropriate public process.

"It appears obvious that the mayor of Sparks has blatantly violated" the open meeting laws, Raatz wrote in an e-mail message.

City Attorney Chet Adams said he received a letter from the AG's office on Thursday indicating it would follow up on the request for an investigation.

"I am more than happy to cooperate with the Attorney General's Office in their investigation," Adams told the Sparks Tribune.

AG's office spokesman Tom Sargent declined to elaborate about the investigation.

"Yes, we have received a complaint and we're inquiring into the matter," he said. "Beyond that I can't say anything else."

Late last month, Armstrong called all five council members individually to ask them their opinion about his plan to buy and display four new "God Bless America" signs at city hall.

Armstrong was outraged after the word "God" was removed from similar signs at city hall on the advice of Adams, who feared they could be viewed as a city endorsement of religion and invite lawsuits.

Armstrong said all five council members gave him verbal approval to put the signs up.

State law says electronic communications, including telephone calls, "must not be used to circumvent the spirit or letters of the open meeting law."

The law states that all meetings or public bodies must be open and public, and that the public must be notified beforehand about meetings.

In an earlier interview, Armstrong said he thought he might have been violating the open meeting law.

"I knew this could be a problem, but I needed to get their support," he said.

Armstrong purchased the new "God Bless America" signs with his own money and posted them on Sept. 30.