Two hired guns will lobby on behalf of Clark County government and District Court judges at a combined cost of about $220,000 yearly.
Clark County commissioners Tuesday awarded Dan Hart & Associates a one-year, $102,000 contract to lobby for the county.
Then they approved paying $10,000 a month to lobbyist Rick Loop, who will represent District Court judges for 15 months.
The lobbyists were hired the day after Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, announced that if re-elected, she would draft a bill barring local governments from using tax dollars to pay outside lobbyists.
"We have qualified staff people," Kirkpatrick said. "Why aren't we working with them?"
A few commissioners said they were aware of Kirkpatrick's plans. They expressed mixed sentiments.
Commissioner Rory Reid said he might back the ban on lobbyists as long as it applied to all local governments.
"I don't think lobbyists are necessary," Reid said. "They certainly are a part of the landscape of what happens at the Legislature."
But Commissioner Tom Collins argued that professional lobbyists can bring a political savvy to the Legislature that county staffers might lack. In fact, the county is so big and diverse, it needs multiple lobbyists to protect its interests, Collins said.
In the state's current budget crisis, he said, "the state supposedly is coming after our revenue."
Kirkpatrick contends that the handsome salaries paid to lobbyists could be spent on essential services as well as recreation, parks and other things that enhance the quality of life for residents.
"Think about the dollars we could be putting back into local transportation," Kirkpatrick said.
Both Reid and Commissioner Chip Maxfield mentioned before they approved Hart's contract that he had worked on their election campaigns. They first disclosed this past working relationship at a June 3 meeting in which they recommended Hart for the position.
Collins said the way the county screened candidates was biased, flawed and a "poster child" for Kirkpatrick's anti-lobbyist cause. City staff had their preferences and county commissioners had theirs, muddying the process, he said.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who voted against hiring the lobbyists, agreed with Kirkpatrick.
"I think in the long run it is a waste of money," Giunchigliani said.
A former assemblywoman, Giunchigliani said a lobbyist who works for a local government spends a lot of time tracking bills, hardly the kind of work that justifies a six-figure salary.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.