After a failed effort to oust Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore from office a year ago, organizer Molly Taylor pledged to protect proponents of the recall attempt.
Taylor vowed not to turn over the final recall petition to the city clerk’s office in order to keep private the identities of people who signed because she said Fiore had threatened supporters. It was a willful defiance that under Nevada law is punishable by a misdemeanor.
Now Taylor, founder of the “Expel Michele” committee, is facing a criminal charge for not revealing Fiore’s list of detractors and, with trial set to begin Monday, she acknowledged she is not sure what to expect.
“I didn’t think they were going to come after me,” Taylor said about prosecutors. “That being said, I would still do it again tomorrow. I would do it again tomorrow to protect those people.”
A top Fiore aide last year refuted claims that the councilwoman had threatened anyone who signed the petition.
Effort comes up short
Last September, a 90-day deadline arrived without the committee collecting the required 1,911 signatures necessary to trigger a recall election. Taylor cited the difficulties hiring people to canvass for signatures during a pandemic.
The “small group of partisan antagonizers” had presented “baseless claims” and the recall effort’s failure was predictable, Fiore’s special assistant Chance Bonaventura said in a statement at the time.
While Taylor said she did not count how many final signatures were collected, the committee reported in June 2020 it was short more than 1,300 names. It submitted the petition to the city clerk’s office halfway into the recall effort as required by law.
Then Fiore went on the radio.
Fiore issues warning
During an appearance in August 2020 with local conservative talk show host Alan Stock — where conservation drifted between the ongoing recall effort, criticism of the NAACP and more — Fiore laid out a clear although broad warning for anyone who would rebuke her.
“If anyone has the guts to come after me and attack me, I hope that they understand that I will smile pleasantly and find out who they are and attack them right back 10 times and more,” she said, according to a recording of the show provided by Taylor.
Later that month, Fiore similarly told KSNV Channel 3 that she would find out who signers were and “what they’re about.”
Taylor said that recall proponents had been fearful Fiore would be vindictive but Taylor had personally assured them that “nothing would happen to them, that everything would be OK.”
It became the impetus for her decision to withhold the final recall petition when it was due in September, she said.
State law does allow anyone who signs a recall petition to request their name be removed by the clerk. And it permits elected officials to request people remove their names from petitions.
Neither Fiore nor Bonaventura responded to messages this week seeking Fiore’s comments on renewed allegations of threats or Taylor’s legal case.
Investigation into misdemeanor
The day after the final signatures were due, three investigators from the secretary of state’s office showed up at Taylor’s house as part of a criminal investigation requested by Wayne Thorley, the then-deputy secretary of state for elections.
Taylor told investigators that Fiore, in three separate interviews, had threatened “anyone who signs anything against me,” according to an affidavit from an investigator with the secretary of state’s office.
Taylor acknowledged this week that she may have naively assumed her explanation to investigators would be accepted and the issue would be resolved.
At least one investigator reviewed audio from Fiore’s radio interview and a complaint Taylor submitted against Fiore to state and city officials regarding the interview, according to the affidavit.
The secretary of state’s office, which concluded Taylor appeared to violate the law, declined Friday to comment on the case, including what resulted from the complaint she filed against Fiore. The Las Vegas Sun reported in September 2020, however, that officials “found no evidence of a violation” by Fiore.
Las Vegas Justice Court records show Taylor was charged Feb. 24 with a misdemeanor for allegedly violating NRS 306.015. The law is unambiguous: Anyone who fails to submit a recall petition to a filing officer is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanors in Nevada are punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both.
Convention remarks, hay barn prompt recall
Expel Michele’s efforts to remove Fiore from her seat on the council were rooted in general concerns about Fiore’s representation of Ward 6. Fiore was targeted for racially charged remarks about affirmative action she was reported to have made during a Clark County Republican Party convention and for supporting converting a historic hay barn at Floyd Lamb Park into an event center.
Fiore later publicly apologized to anyone she may have offended during her convention remarks but declined to repeat her specific comments, only saying they were being misconstrued by the media. A state GOP probe into the incident was inconclusive.
Still, Fiore stepped down as mayor pro tem 11 days after the Republican event, yet she claimed the decision was unrelated to the controversy.
She has since come under fire amid an FBI investigation into her campaign finances and Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, a one-time ally, has come forward with allegations that Fiore assaulted and bullied her at City Hall.