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Controversial bench appointee had endorsement from Trump

More than four months after the death of Pahrump Justice of the Peace Kent Jasperson, his vacant seat has finally been filled, with Nye County commissioners opting this week to appoint former Nevada Assemblywoman and former Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore to the position.

While the decision may have been a unanimous one for commissioners, it split the community.

Some members of the public applauded the choice as others questioned why commissioners appointed the controversial figure. Readers have been reacting to the announcement on the Pahrump Valley Times Facebook page.

Fiore is a fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump and was involved in multiple scandals throughout her tenure on the Las Vegas council. Her home was raided by the FBI last year as part of a campaign finance violation investigation, although she has said the claims were “made up” and that she cooperated with investigators.

A 2019 Review-Journal investigation found that Fiore had a history of unreported taxes and business problems. She has denied wrongdoing. Fiore also registered to vote in Nye County just weeks ago and says she purchased land here this summer.

Fiore will assume the bench and preside over cases in Pahrump Justice Court, Department B for the next two years.

How it happened

The process of her appointment was a lengthy one, taking nearly four hours during the Nye County Commission’s Dec. 20 meeting but stretching back for more than a month before that.

A pool of 18 applicants were up for consideration following the withdrawal of commissioner Leo Blundo and former Inyo County Sheriff William Lutze and with so many to choose from, the commission utilized a scoring matrix to assist with determining who would ultimately earn the appointment.

All of the applicants were given a chance to speak for two minutes before undertaking a series of questions from the board, during which commissioners recorded their scores. After each applicant had their say, the scores were tallied and the top three contenders were announced.

Making it to the final three were Fiore, current Nye County Republican Central Committee Chair Bill Carns and current pro-tem judge Michael Foley, who had been acting as justice of the peace in Judge Jasperson’s old courtroom for the past month.

The trio were then requestioned by the board, after which commissioner Donna Cox made the motion to appoint Fiore, whom, Cox noted, had received a personal endorsement from former president Trump.

“‘Michele Fiore is an outstanding and wonderful woman whom I have known for a long while and she would make an absolutely fantastic justice of the peace,’” Cox quoted from Trump’s letter of endorsement. “That speaks very loudly and it was an honor to receive this,” she added.

Nye County Commissioner Debra Strickland offered a second on the motion and brief round of discussion was had before commission chair Frank Carbone, who remarked that he would have preferred to appoint Foley, called for the question. The motion passed 5-0.

“I’m a former assemblywoman for two terms and four special sessions. I sat on the judiciary (committee) for both terms. I wrote 119 pieces of legislation that are now in the NRSs (Nevada Revised Statutes),” Fiore told the board during her two-minute presentation. “I have sat on the Las Vegas City Council for the past five years and the experience that I have sitting there, listening to folks that come before us, is the experience of a servant leader.”

As to her eligibility to hold the Pahrump justice of the peace seat, which was questioned by certain members of the public, Fiore remarked that she had purchased land locally in June and she was currently renting a home from another former Nevada Assembly member, Ed Goedhart.

“So I am a qualified elector as of mid-November, the exact date was Nov. 15,” Fiore explained. “And I am very excited to be a Pahrump girl.”

Another controversial topic was broached during Fiore’s interview before the board, that of guns in facilities housing the courts.

The Nye County Commission has been at loggerheads with the Fifth Judicial District Court over the issue of weapons being carried in the county government complexes, where the district court’s courtrooms are located. Commissioner Bruce Jabbour, who brought that argument to a head last year, made it clear that the battle was not about carrying guns in the actual courtrooms, but within other areas of the county-owned buildings.

Fiore said she was a firm backer of Second Amendment rights and she didn’t see an issue with having firearms in the government complexes, or even in the courtrooms themselves. “I believe an armed society is a polite society. So I think firearms should be anywhere a person is… If I’m sitting on that bench and I have my firearm, as I have it with me today, and someone is stupid enough to pull theirs, if we do have a gun battle, I will probably win. So I am cool with you bringing a gun into the courtroom,” Fiore asserted. “If you’re silly enough to challenge me, then you are just plain silly.”

Fiore also noted that she is currently studying law, with the intention of taking the bar examination by the end of her term of appointment.

“I’m very excited to go forth with the process and actually get to work to get our backlog cleaned up and to work with our pro-tem Mike Foley,” she stated.

Fiore’s appointment will expire in January, 2025 when the winner of the 2024 general election takes office. Fiore said she absolutely intends to run for formal election to the justice of the peace seat during the next election cycle.

Anyone interested in viewing the meeting can do so by visiting www.NyeCountyNV.gov

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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