Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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Answers: Clark County:

Firefighters’ endorsement not so coveted these days

Not long ago an endorsement from a firefighters’ union was the gold standard of support for a politician’s campaign. The brave public servants not only reflected well on the candidate but usually canvassed neighborhoods drumming up votes.

No more.

What makes you say that?

With early voting for the municipal primary three weeks away, candidates are talking to unions, seeking endorsements. Las Vegas has a race for mayor and three races for City Council, and there are numerous races in other municipalities.

Recently, the Sun received a call from a Las Vegas candidate asking if the same kind of sick-leave issues that Clark County uncovered with its firefighters had occurred with Las Vegas firefighters. A year ago, the Sun reported county firefighters call in sick at twice the rate of other county employees and four times the rate of management.

Now, county firefighters are under the gun after an arbitrator agreed with the county that many firefighters appear to be using sick leave as vacation.

Why did the candidate ask about city firefighters’ sick leave?

The candidate was evaluating whether to seek an endorsement from the fire union. If, the candidate said, it had the same problem as Clark County, then the candidate would not talk to the union.

Wow. That would have never happened two years ago — you’d just take the endorsement and run.

That’s exactly what the candidate said.

So do Las Vegas firefighters have the same problem?

Not according to numbers the city provided for the Sun. In 2010, 489 firefighters working 24-hour shifts averaged 8.2 shifts of sick leave. Another 112 10-hour Fire Department employees averaged 8.2 shifts of sick leave. And all other city employees working 10-hour shifts averaged eight shifts of sick leave.

Jace Radke, city spokesman, said Las Vegas tracks sick leave in all departments using a program called Performance Plus. The Fire Department has also implemented measures to keep sick leave down:

• Overtime cannot be earned 72 hours after calling in sick, limiting the potential for combining sick leave and overtime.

• Sick leave over three days requires a doctor’s note to return to work.

• Sick leave is limited to six incidents a year without a doctor’s note.

Radke added that since 2008, the department has curtailed sick leave by more than 10 percent. Additionally, the firefighters’ union is planning talks with the fire chief, Radke said, to come up with more steps to reduce sick leave “understanding the importance of this issue to the city’s bottom line and to the public trust.”

•••

Click to enlarge photo

John Cahill, Clark County's public administrator, goes to the homes of the recently deceased, takes inventory and carts away possessions.

Clark County Public Administrator John Cahill might be on the verge of becoming a reality TV star.

Has that genre really reached the point at which a little-known elected official is deemed worthy fodder?

Apparently so.

Who thinks what Cahill does is TV-worthy?

An Encino, Calif., production company called Workaholic Productions has been working with the county for a few months to come up with an agreement the County Commission is likely to approve Tuesday. Workaholic will pay the county $6,000 per episode.

What does the public administrator do that’s so interesting?

An elected position, the public administrator intervenes when questions arise over a dead person’s belongings — heirs can’t be found, the property is being neglected or handled improperly or the administrator is named in the will as estate executor.

The Clark County office handles about 1,000 cases a year. Located downtown near the coroner’s office, the public administrator’s warehouse is full of old pictures, documents, clothes, couches, bikes, trinkets, baubles and other items. Personal drama, too, is inherent in any death, which the TV show is bound to capture on camera.

So he deals with the same kind of junk ... er, belongings that, say, a pawnshop buys and sells every day?

Pretty much.

See where I’m going with this?

Yes. And perhaps Cahill will gain a following like the “Pawn Stars” at the Gold & Silver Pawnshop on Las Vegas Boulevard, who have tourists lining up to see Chum Lee, Big Hoss and the rest of the gang haggle with people over their stuff.

So when is it going to be on?

The agreement is for up to 10 episodes to air on the National Geographic channel. A pilot will air in the spring or early summer.

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  1. The fire fighters have tainted an image that many of us have hold dear. The shame, the violators, have duped us the voters by stealing tax dollars by conspiring to defaud! Yes, strong statement, but the actions by the violators are clear evidence of criminal wrong doing.

  2. When looking at the current candidates running for the Mayors job be sure to look at which unions they have been tied to in the past.

    Spots don't change. They may be laying low about asking for support at this time but that does not mean they are not still tied to those same checkbooks behind the scenes.

  3. "Don't bite the hand that feeds you". Unionism is its own worst enemy. Greed begets more greed. When the greed gets too cumbersome for the government to bear, the government must make the necessary adjustments. Similarly, in the private sector, when the union demands get too cumbersome for the company to bear, the company folds. Unions seem bent on killing the geese that lay the golden eggs. So, it's no wonder they are not as popular with politicians these days.

  4. I've never considered any of these type of endorsements when voting for any candidate, other than maybe considering certain endorsements as a reason not to vote for someone.
    An endorsement from a firefighter (or a teacher, or a celebrity or any other specific profession) is not any better than an endorsemet from anyone else.
    I feel the same when candidates are endorsed by a newspaper, TV station or radio personality. Again, those opinions are no better or worse than yours or mine.