A program Las Vegas once considered a method to weed mob associates out of booze sales and other risque businesses has outlived its usefulness and should be pared back, according to a city councilman.
Councilman Bob Beers recently introduced a bill that would shift responsibility for hearing work card denial appeals from the council to an appointed panel. It would also reduce the number of occupations that require a city work card.
Beers said he introduced the bill because the process of requiring people, many of whom have overcome drug or alcohol abuse or other personal problems, to bare their souls at televised council meetings is anachronistic and demeaning.
Beers and others on the council first expressed concerns about the process in late 2012 when a convenience store clerk whose boss considered her a stellar worker at the company’s Clark County stores had to recount her past problems with drugs, abuse, prostitution and homelessness in order to work at one of the company’s Las Vegas stores.
“Telling someone in their fifth year of sobriety that they can’t work behind the counter of a 7-11 and then making them go before the whole City Council and Channel 2 to appeal that decision is reprehensible to me,” Beers said.
The work card program is a decades-old system of background checks for people seeking to hold certain occupations.
It was once considered a method to keep organized crime underlings out of gambling halls and other businesses associated with the mafia.
But, like many well-intended ideas, it grew to cover more areas than the creators might have envisioned.
In Las Vegas 16 occupational categories require a work card, according to the city’s licensing department. Cards are needed in North Las Vegas for 15 occupations and in Clark County for eight.
Under the program, people applying for the jobs apply for a card through Las Vegas Police, who provide a background check. If police deny the card the applicants can appeal to the City Council.
Beers’ proposal would cut the number of job categories to eight, to match Clark County, and change the appeal process.
Pawn brokers, restaurant servers, apartment staff and clerks at convenience stores that sell liquor would no longer need cards through the city. Locksmiths, bartenders, burglar alarm workers, erotic entertainers and some others would still require cards.
Under the proposed appeal process applicants would no longer have to face the City Council. Instead they would go before an appointed, administrative panel.
City licensing director Karen Duddlesten said state law has for several years allowed for an administrative panel to review appeals but the council has never created one.
She said the staff recommendation to the council will be to approve the bill. It is scheduled for the council recommending committee on Jan. 21 and could go before the full council for a vote Feb. 5.
“At some point in time businesses have to be responsible for their employees and doing their background checks,” Duddlesten said. “They need to know who their employees are and to what standards they are holding the employees.”
Beers described the proposal as changing city government rules so they make life better, not worse, for residents.
“Life is hard,” Beers said. “Life is harder if you are in a recovery mode and in a lower wage job. It just makes no sense for the city to add another layer of difficulty to your life.”
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0285. Follow him on Twitter @BenSpillman702.