North Las Vegas Votes To Suspend Parts Of Union Contracts

The North Las Vegas City Council has granted the city manager special authority to suspend parts of union contracts in an effort to deal with a budget shortfall.

With little public comment and no debate, council members voted unanimously Friday night in favor of a resolution allowing City Manager Tim Hacker to mandate the concessions the city has been seeking from the police and fire unions, including an end to pay raises.

However, Mike Yarter, president of the Police Officers Association, and Leonard Cardinale, president of the Police Supervisors Association, said they’ll consider a lawsuit in an effort to block the plan.

The city is using an obscure state law to suspend the union agreements. The law allows municipal governments to do away with collective bargaining agreements in cases of emergencies, including riots and civil disorder.

Hacker said the alternative _ 217 layoffs mostly within the already strapped police and fire departments _ would constitute an emergency itself. Such layoffs are the only other option to deal with the budget crunch, he said, and would leave the city’s 200,000-plus residents at risk.

Mayor Shari Buck called the action necessary to “rescue our city from financial ruin” after nearly six months of failed negotiations.

Police union officials say they simply do not believe city officials. They accuse city officials of mismanaging North Las Vegas, and fabricating numbers such as the 217 layoffs and a $33 million budget deficit.

“The problem is not the concessions, it’s that they’re violating the law to get them,” Cardinale told the Las Vegas Sun. “We cannot stand back and allow them to reach into a contract and take stuff whenever they want under some provision in a law that doesn’t apply.”

Yarter said the city probably would be better off if the state took over.

The state Department of Taxation is already monitoring the city’s finances, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, and could step in and impose its own rules.

State law would allow the department to raise some taxes, a power the city already has, and Hacker said the council has dismissed it because it would not raise enough money.

Terry Rubald, the taxation department’s chief of local government service, said she has asked for an opinion from the state attorney general’s office on whether the law would allow the department to suspend collective bargaining agreements that are already in place.

Hacker said he’ll exercise the powers granted to him immediately. Under the resolution, his actions would take effect July 1.

“I just hope if it goes to court … it takes the time to evaluate all the facts and doesn’t rush to a conclusion one way or another,” Hacker said. “I think there needs to be a fair evaluation of the facts.”

From The Las Vegas Sun.