Saturday, June 2, 2012 | 2 a.m.
The unprecedented decision for North Las Vegas surprised no one at the special city council meeting Friday.
City council members voted unanimously to grant special authority to City Manager Tim Hacker to force unions to agree to concessions to balance the $30.9 million budget gap. Union leaders in attendance met the decision with a resigned silence, predicting the outcome days before the meeting, while city officials remained stoic.
No one claimed to want this course of action, but city council members and Mayor Shari Buck deemed it necessary after nearly six months of failed negotiations.
“We hoped that the council would hear the action, consider the backup material and realize, as I think was said several times, this is not a chosen course of action, just one that they were pressed into taking,” Hacker said.
The result of the city’s action means starting July 1, salaries for police, firefighters and city workers will be frozen, layoffs will occur and non-emergency city services will be cut back, among other concessions.
More than 75 citizens and union members attended the meeting. Most sat emotionless, accepting the fate, but a few voiced frustration or support for the decision. City employee Daniele Monroe-Moreno received the loudest applause for her speech.
Her words tumbled out rapidly, as if trying to suppress the anger lumped in her throat. She expressed frustration at the city’s mismanagement, and cited it as just another case of the city breaching contracts as far back as 2009. When she was done, many of the attendees erupted with cheers against the unfazed city council members.
“We felt pretty confident from what we were going to hear from some of the speakers,” said Pamela Goynes-Brown, councilwoman from Ward 2. “Some always throw a monkey wrench in it or say something unexpected.”
Although no police or firefighter union leaders spoke in the public forum, they will now decide if they will file a lawsuit against the city. Both Mike Yarter, president of the Police Officers Association, and Leonard Cardinale, president of the Police Supervisors Association, said they will look into lawsuits.
“The problem is not the concessions, it’s that they’re violating the law to get them,” Cardinale said. “We cannot stand back and allow them to reach into a contract and take stuff whenever they want under some provision in a law that doesn’t apply.”
If the unions win the lawsuit, Hacker said it could mean more than 217 layoffs among the police and firefighters, even those in emergency services. Cardinale said that is something the city would decide to do, not a direct result of union actions.
Hacker said the city is prepared to go to court and thinks if the judges see all the facts, the city will win the case.
“I just hope if it goes to court … it takes the time to evaluate all the facts and doesn’t rush to a conclusion one way or another,” Hacker said. “I think there needs to be a fair evaluation of the facts.”