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August 23, 2014

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Water coalition leader presses to keep staff on public payroll

Chris Giunchigliani

Chris Giunchigliani

Sun Coverage

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani wants to close the tiny intergovernmental Clean Water Coalition this week. If she succeeds, the coalition’s four employees might continue as public employees.

Why?

Because Chip Maxfield, the former county commissioner who was named general manager of the Clean Water Coalition in 2009, wants to move his staff to the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Last week, Maxfield was in the County Government Center lobbying commissioners to support the move.

In 2009, Maxfield and three employees earned salary and benefits of about $621,000.

Who would need to sign off on such a move?

The Water Authority board, which is composed of three county commissioners, Tom Collins, Steve Sisolak and Mary Beth Scow; North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck; Henderson Councilman Steven Kirk; Boulder City Councilman Duncan McCoy; and Las Vegas Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian.

What do commissioners think about the idea?

Sisolak said he doesn’t like it. He needs to evaluate whether the coalition is needed. The coalition was formed in 2002 to oversee construction of a pipeline to return treated wastewater deep into Lake Mead. It was deemed necessary to improve the quality of valley drinking water. The pipeline was scrapped, however, because water treatment technology has improved.

“So what are they even doing?” Sisolak said of the coalition’s employees. “I’m not looking for the county to provide soft landings for people.”

What are they doing?

The Sun sent questions to Maxfield, but he did not reply.

Well, what does Tom Collins think?

Collins said he thinks the coalition serves a purpose even without the pipeline. Regional coordination of the four treatment plants in Southern Nevada is needed, he said.

But he isn’t sure the Water Authority will have a job for Maxfield and his employees. “If they do, I’m saying Chip would be eminently qualified for the job.”

•••

Another issue the commission will look at Tuesday is a 2 percent pay cut for management and nonunion employees. The proposal would save $3.3 million.

County management has asked departments to outline 9 percent budget cuts intended to save $41 million.

Meanwhile, the state wants to transfer programs to the county or divert county tax dollars to the state. Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to continue tax diversions, which began in 2009, that will cost the county $75 million. At the same time, he wants the county to take over responsibility for services costing about $50 million.

The county estimates the combined hit is $125 million over the next two years.

The county took $180 million from the state over the past two years.

What do commissioners think of the 2 percent cut?

Several like the idea. In fact, Chairwoman Susan Brager is asking for 2 percent cuts in commissioners’ salaries.

But Collins said the salary cuts will be temporary and he wants to see moves that create permanent savings. For example, the county could change the formula for longevity pay. Instead of calculating it as a percentage of wages, he said, it could be based on flat rates that would not increase with salaries.

“As long as you have a simple pay cut, that’s something they can just come back in a few years and add back in,” he said.

Sisolak said savings are needed now. It would take years to see the benefit of changing the longevity formula.

Why not do both: the 2 percent cuts now and start digging into longevity?

Longevity is an issue in closed-doors contract talks. The argument against changing the formula for longtime employees is that it would be unfair. However, longevity pay has been eliminated for some new county employees.

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  1. Leave it to Clarence (Collins) to see no evil in wasting our tax dollars. Jeez, isn't he ever going to be term limited out?

  2. "In 2009, Maxfield and three employees earned salary and benefits of about $621,000."

    Bob635 -- that's 4 people, not 3, and that averages out to about $155k each. No wonder they're fighting tooth and nail for their do-nothing jobs in a government agency that seems to never really had anything to do.

    The sooner people like this get weaned off the public teat the sooner those we entrust running our government entities can be taken seriously. These commissioners should be given the budget and hatchets and told to get busy.

    "I am for a government rigorously frugal & simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers & salaries merely to make partisans, & for increasing, by every device, the public debt, on the principle of it's being a public blessing." -- from Thomas Jefferson's letter to Elbridge Gerry, Jan 26, 1799

  3. The Clean Water Coalition taxed many, collected millions, the state stole the millions yet we keep paying for people to work at the Clean Water Coalition even though it now serves no purpose.

    This decision should be an easy one for the powers to be. Sorry, but four people should become unemployed this week and stop spending our money. That money can be put to better use in the county. I hate to see anyone lose their jobs but we can no longer stand for waste at taxpayers expense.

    Everyone should watch this group closely and see what they do here.

  4. vegaslee -- your post brought up good points but implied an even better one. That would be this county has clamored for accountability from the firefighters who gamed the system. What about these four who apparently did little besides collect their paychecks and sit in their taxpayer-provided offices, etc.? That's the kind of equality I could get behind. Refunds should be ordered.

    "I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically." -- Henry David Thoreau 1849 "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"

  5. Sisolak is asking the right question.

  6. $155K each? Where do I apply? Reminds me of the council in Greece that still gets paid to oversee a lake which ceased to exist 60 years ago.

  7. And we wonder why we're broke? What's a measley saving of $621K in a bureaucrat's eyes? Good grief already!