Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2014

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County seeking to block police raise

Clark County is being underrepresented and misrepresented on a committee that appears poised to grant Metro Police an unprecedented four-year, 25.6 percent compensation increase, top county officials said Wednesday.

But a police union representative said county leaders are blaming a system they have used happily for years only because they disagree with the latest proposed collective bargaining agreement.

Clark County Manager Thom Reilly said he has seen no proof that such a large raise is needed, noting that other organizations such as the Clark County Fire Department, which recently negotiated a 17.2 percent increase over a four-year period, are receiving far less.

"Are (police) any more deserving than firefighters?" Reilly said.

Because Clark County has just two representatives on the five-member Metro Fiscal Affairs Committee, which approves compensation increases for the police, the measure could go through despite the disapproval of six of the seven county commissioners, Reilly complained.

It's a major problem for Reilly because the county funds 70 percent of Metro's budget.

One of the county representatives is Tom Collins, the only commissioner who has said he supports the pay increase.

"This is a contract that we should embrace as a county," Collins said.

The commission plans to vote Tuesday on whether to replace Collins on the committee with Chairman Rory Reid.

"I just find that absolutely incredible that at this juncture they would choose to replace him," said David Kallas, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, a union that represents 2,400 local police personnel. "Because Commissioner Collins is not following the county line, he is now expendable and an outcast?"

Kallas said the reason police are asking for such a large increase is that Metro has been receiving less health care funding than other county organizations for years.

But Reilly said he has not seen any studies to confirm that police need a 70 percent increase in funding for insurance premiums -- the amount requested to make Metro's health benefits competitive.

The county and Las Vegas approved a budget for Metro's current fiscal year that included money for a 5 percent compensation boost, Reilly said. But police representatives are trying to push through a contract that would include a 7.1 percent increase this year and pay hikes of more than 6 percent annually during the next three years.

"The Fiscal Affairs (Committee) shouldn't be able to bind the county for four years out," he said.

Reilly said the current system of approving police contracts is determined by state law, but he would like to explore alternatives such as a process in which the County Commission and the Las Vegas City Council would each have to vote in favor.

But Kallas said the existing system has produced many successful agreements and does not need to be changed.

"Now they're trying to undermine the authority the Fiscal Affairs Committee has because they're not happy," he said.

For his part, Collins seemed unfazed by the proposal to replace him, saying he would abide by whatever decision the other commissioners make.

"That's not my call," he said. "I'm only one person who represents a district that has a high crime rate and wants good cops."

Collins did not do anything wrong, Reid said, but his favorable view of the pay raise package doesn't reflect the opinions of other commissioners.

"Tom Collins is always very passionate about what he believes, and we always respect that," Reid said. "We just wanted to make sure our voices were heard."

But Las Vegas Councilman Gary Reese, one of two city representatives on the Fiscal Affairs Committee, questioned how much respect the County Commission has for Collins' perspective.

"If they respected his point of view, why would they be taking him off the committee?" Reese said.

The vote on the disputed police contract is scheduled for Oct. 24.

J. Craig Anderson can be reached at 259-2320 or [email protected]

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