Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2014

Currently: 76° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

north las vegas:

Unions target incumbent Richard Cherchio in NLV council race

Police, firefighters make vocal push to oust councilman

Richard Cherchio

Richard Cherchio

North Las Vegas’ Ward 4 City Council race is as much a contest between incumbent Richard Cherchio and local unions as it is between Cherchio and challenger Wade Wagner.

The city’s police and fire unions have waged a brutal campaign against Cherchio, one that will test the bargaining units’ power and likely shape future elections across the Las Vegas Valley.

Simply put, the unions want to oust Cherchio because he has called for public safety layoffs if union concessions aren’t made to aid North Las Vegas, which faces a $30 million deficit. The unions say they have agreed to millions in concessions, and further cuts will harm residents.

Cherchio says the unions are being greedy and unreasonable, and their leaders care only about protecting members’ incomes and benefits. An example he cites: Police and firefighters, most of whom don’t live in North Las Vegas, suggested a property tax increase to generate added revenue needed to cover their salaries.

The race’s outcome directly affects North Las Vegas residents but might have wider implications as municipalities throughout Clark County negotiate with public employee unions. A Wagner victory could highlight the power of unions and embolden them. A Cherchio victory could put them on notice that their political might goes only so far.

Cherchio is the first council member targeted by police and fire officials. Members say they hope to go after Councilwoman Anita Wood next.

“It really comes down to control. It doesn’t matter who you are. Anybody who says no to them winds up being a target,” Cherchio said.

Wagner and union leaders say police and firefighters are doing their part. Police have agreed to three major concessions in two years.

“The (firefighters) just came up with a 5 percent pay reduction,” Wagner said. “I think everyone realizes they have to tighten their belts.”

But the unions are campaigning against Cherchio, issuing attacks that have crossed legal and ethical lines.

They distributed a flier showing a masked intruder with a crowbar smashing a window. It says crime in North Las Vegas spiked 50 percent because of policies implemented by Cherchio.

In fact, crime has not jumped 50 percent and is down in many neighborhoods, according to the police department.

A flier paid for by the police union’s political action committee claims criminals want voters to choose Cherchio because he “voted for an ill-conceived plan that allows criminals to get out of jail two and three times faster than before. He has increased credits for inmates to $200 per day served.”

But the plan was an administrative decision, not made by City Council vote. A judge raised the credits inmates receive to counteract overcrowding. Most of the prisoners affected committed traffic violations.

Another set of mailers accuses Cherchio of approving $150 million in spending for a new City Hall and $295 million on a water reclamation project. Both votes were taken two years before Cherchio was appointed to the council in 2009.

A lawyer for Cherchio’s campaign warned the unions to stop making the claims or face a defamation suit.

The unions also came under fire for not complying with election law. Their PACs did not file expense and contribution reports as required and were found guilty by Secretary of State Ross Miller. He fined the police PAC $1,375; the case against the firefighters’ PAC is unresolved.

A Cherchio supporter filed a second complaint with Miller’s office, accusing the unions of violating campaign law by donating more to Wagner’s campaign than allowed under contribution limits. During the primary, more than half of Wagner’s contributions came from union sources.

Union officials stand by their ads and say their failure to file financial reports on time was a calendar mix-up. They insist they aren’t out to get Cherchio, they just favor Wagner’s focus on public safety.

“You need to prioritize in life,” Police Officers Association President Mike Yarter said. “I don’t think that parks, libraries and some of the other frivolous spending at City Hall are priorities. Public safety is the priority. Without that, all the other stuff is inconsequential.”

But an email sent by a union representative in September seems to support the claim that police leadership planned to target any council member who threatened its livelihood.

“The PAC recommended the union spend up to $100,000 (in a campaign) if a City Council member votes to lay off officers,” the email reads.

Yarter said the woman who wrote the memo no longer works for the department or serves on the board. He would not comment further.

The vigorous campaigning by the unions has led some to worry about Wagner’s independence if he is elected. Will he feel the need to “repay” the unions, they ask.

Wagner said he makes only one promise to residents: “My door will be open and you can come in and talk to me anytime.”

Cherchio doesn’t buy it.

“The union heads are scaring people to protect what they have,” Cherchio said. “If the wrong person gets in this seat, over the next fours years I can assure you that public safety will dominate and all of the other services we provide — clean parks, code enforcement, working streetlights — will fall by the wayside. There just isn’t enough money to do it all.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 13 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Unions again trying to railroad someone they can't control. But it won't work cause corruption is now exposed.

  2. This is exactly why at the very least public employee unions should not be allowed to engage in political activities, there is simply too much conflict of interest!

    To be fair, I also think that corporation should also be banned.

    In my opinion, only eligible voters should be allowed to contribute or engage in active campaign activities.

  3. Unions, corporations, PACs are not citizens! They should not have a say in our political process, just like someone from a foreign country has no say in the donating to a campaign. Once again, "If you are not a person and/or a citizen/resident of the place you want to contribute, then you have no opinion in their process!" That should be a Constitutional Amendment!

  4. Get rid of the UNION THUGS, not the councilman!

  5. Less people, fewer businesses, means less crime, less cops = less crime. We need fewer arrogant cops that think they are God's gift to mankind, the libraries, people who fix pot holes and the programs for the kids are more important.

    Time to have the FBI investigate the cops for RICO violations. Also, cops should stop demanding free stuff from area businesses. I have cameras trained on a local restaurant that gives 1/2 price meals to cops.

  6. Wagner and his union supporters have waged a dirty campaign against Richard Cherchio from the very start. The hidden agent behind this rampage is no one other than Mayor Buck who is a political buddy of Wade Wagner, Cherchio's opponent. Buck in my opinion has no interest in seeing North Las Vegas be a dynamic and well balanced city. She is simply out to cut the throats of anyone who will not vote her way--Cherchio and Anita Wood both fall into that category, and both are outstanding council persons who go the extra mile for North Las Vegas and its citizens. Cherchio and Wood are both stand up people. They are both vitally needed in North Las Vegas. If there were some way to throw Buck out the door, and never see her return, that would be a significant energizing impact on the City. Buck needs to go, her puppet Wagner needs to be soundly defeated and Cherchio and Wood(who is up for later election)both have to stay.

  7. Police and firefighter unions "issuing attacks that have crossed legal and ethical lines" (most of us call it "lying") to line their own pockets, at everyone else's expense, seems to fit right in with the accepted way of doing things in Clark County.

  8. I usually don't vote regularly but this time I will make sure that all my family vote for anybody not endorsed by the so powerful unions.

  9. Councilman Richard Cherchio was appointed by the City Council in July 2009 to fill the City Council Ward 4 seat. Councilman Cherchio has been a resident of North Las Vegas since 2001. Councilman Cherchio civic involvement began in 2001, shortly after moving to North Las Vegas when he took the post of president of The Parks Homeowners Association. Councilman Cherchio is a hand's on type of guy, he is not scared to get his hands dirty and stand up for what he believes is right not what he believes people want to hear. Councilman Cherchio is a supporter of a uniformed gun law for North Las Vegas and we would like to see North Las Vegas adopt the same laws as the city of Las Vegas.

  10. North Las Vegas COUNCIL - WARD 4
    Councilman Richard Cherchio
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mD2fHaKTs...

  11. Did I read that right? According to POA Chairman Yarter, quality of life concerns like Parks and Libraries are "frivolous?" Without quality parks and recreation programs and without open and accessible libraries, the city will have more problems. If we can't keep kids occupied in a constructive manner, what do you think they'll do? Oh yeah, cause trouble.

    Mr. Cherchio's opponent has been hand-selected by the Police Officers Association, International Association of Firefighters and Mayor Buck specifically for his "pliability." And he wants to raise property taxes? North Las Vegas already has the highest property tax rates in the Valley.

    The Mayor is already on the record for SHUTTING DOWN all other city departments and outsourcing them in order to keep her Police and Fire patrons happy.

    The city needs responsible leadership Councilman Cherchio and Councilwoman Wood provide that. They are the responsible adults in the room. Without responsible leadership, NLV property values will continue to drop and what little respectability the city has earned in recent years will be flushed down the toilet.

  12. Not to he overlooked is the race for the council seat in North Las Vegas WARD 2 between Pamela Goynes-Brown and Linda Meisenheimer. In this race LINDA MEISENHEIMER is the independent- thinks -for herself candidate who is not beholden to Mayor Buck or the Union interests who are backing Goynes-Brown. Meisenheimer is a true fiscal conservative who will vote according the interests of North Las Vegas, seeking what is right for the citizens and the City and not a mark for the highly limited and controlling aspirations of Mayor Buck and the sole interests of the unions. MEISENHEIMER , a realtor, understands the underlying problems facing the citizens of North Las Vegas and is prepared to face the issues squarely and objectively as an independent representative of the people.