Saturday, June 16, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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The union representing police supervisors is the first to file suit against the city of North Las Vegas over a recent emergency declaration allowing the suspension of agreements with the city’s police and fire unions.
The North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association, which represents sergeants and lieutenants in the city’s Police Department, filed the lawsuit Thursday in Clark County District Court.
“This is a last resort,” said union president Leonard Cardinale. “I would characterize this as the Police Supervisors Association defending themselves. We didn’t have a choice.”
The North Las Vegas Police Officers Association opted to combat the city’s actions by filing a grievance report last week that will be reviewed first by the police chief and then City Manager Tim Hacker. Police officers union president Mike Yarter said it would most likely end in arbitration, where an arbitrator will decide if the city’s actions are legal.
That process could take up to two years, if either side chooses to appeal the decision.
“It just shows it wasn’t about the raises. This is simply about making sure our people are not laid off, which is all we asked for, but the city could not agree to that,” Yarter said.
The city is suspending its union contracts, effective July 1, to help bridge what it’s calling a $30.9 million budget gap. The move came June 1 after several months of negotiations between the city and its unions failed to bring the desired results. The city was unable to be reached for comment on the lawsuit, and it was unclear whether the North Las Vegas Firefighters Association will file a lawsuit as well.
In the court filing, the police supervisors union contends that despite the city’s assertions it was facing a projected $30.9 million budget deficit “it has refused to offer proof of such claims.”
Furthermore, the union asserts, the city has never declared it has a “severe financial emergency” as defined under Nevada state law. Such a declaration, the filing says, would have required recommendations of a severe financial emergency from the Nevada Department of Taxation and the Committee on Local Government to the Nevada Tax Commission.
“To date, upon information and belief, such a recommendation has not occurred, nor is there evidence that such a recommendation is imminent.”
State law does allow local governments the ability to take “whatever actions may be necessary to carry out its responsibilities in situations such as riot, military action, natural disaster or civil disorder.” But, the union contends in the suit, “the city’s attempt to use its financial mismanagement to declare an emergency … is an unlawful attempt at breaching the NLVPSA’s labor agreement through a mechanism of statutory misinterpretation when the city could not obtain its desired results through good faith bargaining.”
The lawsuit asks the court to find the city is required to “completely honor” its agreements with the union and to award damages representing any losses incurred by union members, plus interest, and attorney’s fees.