LAUGHLIN — In its first public meeting in nearly three months, the Laughlin Town Advisory Board drew heavy criticism from some residents and businesspeople over a perceived lack of local leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, local resident and former LTAB member Kathy Hoss along with Laughlin business owner Brea Chiodini let the board know in no uncertain terms how disappointed they were with the performance, or perceived lack thereof, of the town’s advisory board who are elected to advise Clark County about the township, its needs, and issues associated with Laughlin. The LTAB is solely an elected advisory board; the members make recommendations to Clark County government but have no actual control of any services or county spending.
Hoss, a member of several civic groups and a candidate for the LTAB in this year’s election, at one point said, “This is an outrage!” adding “We need to step up.”
She started an emotional dissertation by stating, “We are in a pandemic and our
community needs guidance and direction along with information. When our community was shut down, people were scared and some still are. Small businesses had no direction of what was happening and what to expect. They did not know if they would even be able to reopen and pay their employees and bills.
“Members of our community were being laid off and had no income and did not know where they were going to get food or for some transportation was limited. Our community received no direction of what to do or where to go for help or answers. Our town board and town manager should have been there and gave no support to our community.
“Thank God we have organizations that stepped up. The Laughlin Chamber helped direct some of the questions and was able to help the small local businesses with loan docs and finding the information they needed to know and a direction they could shoot for. The Laughlin Elks 2872 donated $3,500 to the food bank along with endless boxes of food. They also reached out to members in the community doing well checks and shopping and delivering food to families who were and are struggling. They have assisted in moving items and collecting donated items. The Laughlin American Legion Post 60 has worked with the food bank on delivering food to vets and their families and following thru on well checks of their members. These are all things our town board and town board manager should have been addressing. Our town manager does not represent one business or organization or one person of his choice, he represents our Laughlin community and he he was not there for our community.
“The only time we saw or heard from him was when the casinos opened. The casinos are not Laughlin; they are a part of the Laughlin community. We as a community need answers, direction and support for all our community. It is disheartening that it has come to this but we need our officials to step up. As soon as this pandemic happened and things were shut down, a plan should have been put in place and expedited for our community.”
Hoss said none of the board was present for the COVID-19 testing in Laughlin last month when Clark County provided 1,000 kits to test the residents to try and establish a baseline of COVID-19 cases in Laughlin. Hoss said she felt that the members of the board should have been present for that testing. She also suggested that when the local grocery store closed its doors last month, the board also should have stepped in to help find alternatives for the residents. Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft and Laughlin Constable Jordan Ross both sought possible alternatives to losing the market for good but none panned out.
Chiodini, who owns Laughlin River Tours, also expressed disappointment that the board wasn’t more proactive, applauding the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce for daily updates and guidance for Laughlin residents who needed to file for unemployment, apply for aid and other updates and advice. To that point, board chairperson Gina Mackey also expressed her thanks to chamber President and CEO Jackie Mazzeo and the chamber for their efforts during the shutdown.
In point of fact however, Town Manager Brian Paulson, did send out updates while his office was still open, directing residents to the Southern Nevada Health District website for up-to-date information.
Asked about the perception that they were absent from the town’s leadership, Paulson pointed out that the Clark County Regional Government office was ordered closed by the county and he and the board were told to cease monthly meetings until further notice following the March meeting. Clark County is in charge of all of the services that Laughlin receives from police to fire and healthcare. The LTAB members, while elected by the residents of Laughlin, are merely there to advise Clark County on matters relating to Laughlin.
So while Hoss and Chiodi expressed that they perceived a lack of leadership on the part of the advisory board, the board was told to stand down during the shutdown .
Once ordered to close down the Regional Government building and cease meetings, the body could not legally gather to formulate any plans because of open meetings laws.