Published Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 | 6:10 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 | 12:22 a.m.
In a controversial vote that one resident at the meeting called "disgusting" and "nepotism," the Henderson City Council unanimously appointed Josh M. Reid, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s son, to be the next city attorney.
Josh Reid, chosen by a 4-0 vote, will be paid a salary of up to $199,000 a year, not including benefits. Council members also said they will add a one-year probation period for the position.
Members of the council cited Josh Reid’s experience in the private sector and a desire to bring in someone from outside of the city attorney’s office as reasons he stood out among the other candidates.
Reid and interim City Attorney Christine Guerci-Nyhus were the finalists for the job. Neither was at the meeting.
A number of people at Tuesday’s meeting said they felt Reid would be selected because of pressure from his father, who contacted some council members after his son applied for the job.
At the outset of the meeting, Mayor Andy Hafen, who had been contacted by the senator, addressed the issue, saying, “Every candidate had someone lobby on their behalf. I’m very well aware of what is out there with Sen. Reid. I did speak with Sen. Reid for about a minute.”
Hafen said that neither political nor media pressure played a part in the decision.
“He brings an outside perspective that I think we need right now,” the mayor said.
“I know there are those of you who will never believe that,” said Hafen, whose daughter worked for the senator.
Sun columnist Jon Ralston reported last month that Harry Reid had made phone calls to Henderson officials after his son applied for the job.
Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion also confirmed that she received a call from the senator.
Vermillion, who abstained from voting after announcing her resignation from the council, said if she had voted, it would have been for Reid.
About 45 people originally applied for the post. The city’s human resources department narrowed the list down to eight candidates, and six interviewed with the council. Reid and Guerci-Nyhus both interviewed privately with each council member before the final vote.
The position became vacant when former city attorney Elizabeth Quillin resigned in early August after a May DUI arrest.
Quillin, who served as the city’s attorney for two years, received a $99,500 severance package. The package included accrued vacation time and 10 months of insurance coverage, worth about $3,800.
The reaction to the appointment — and to Harry Reid's involvement in the decision — has been mixed.
“He is an attorney with an impressive business-related legal practice and that’s a valuable trait, I think, to have in the city,” said councilwoman Deborah March, who voted with the council through a conference call. She added that his appointment would be a win-win if Guerci-Nyhus stayed with the city.
“I think it’s disgusting,” Robert Sulliman, a Henderson resident who urged the council not to appoint Reid, said after the vote.
“The nepotism in the city of Henderson where I am a taxpayer and have been for five years is despicable," Sulliman said. "It’s just wrong … to have a unanimous vote here tonight after they lowered the standards. It’s not what is best for the citizens, the taxpayers of Henderson.”
Sulliman and another resident said they would not support council members in the future if the vote was for Reid, whose politically powerful father called several council members before the vote Tuesday.
The council changed the original job requirements posted for the position, they said, after it was clear that they were limiting the candidates who could apply.
Mayor Hafen said the original requirements were so strict even a Supreme Court Justice would not qualify and were not altered to allow Reid to be in the running.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said Jon Foster, who attended the meeting. “I don’t agree with it. Did Josh Reid get as far as he did because he’s Harry Reid’s son, or was he really qualified?”