Dueling legal actions filed in prosecutors-county standoff

An intense legal battle erupted Wednesday between Clark County and a prosecutors union over a move to purge members from the union and slash their salaries.

The Clark County Prosecutors Association had planned to seek a temporary restraining order in District Court to block Tuesday's County Commission vote to take away the union rights of 43 lawyers in the district attorney's office.

But the county fended off that effort Wednesday, at least temporarily, by going to federal court to get the dispute moved there.

Union leaders called the federal court petition a delay tactic and late in the afternoon filed a new legal action in District Court to stop the purge from taking place.

The prosecutors union charged in the new petition that the commission had abused its authority and violated the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the union.

It asked District Judge Douglas Herndon to issue an order nullifying the vote and forcing the county to resolve the dispute through the collective bargaining process. Herndon set a 9 a.m. hearing on Friday.

"County management knew the commission's vote was unlawful but recommended the commission pass the resolution," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo, the union's spokesman.

Mark Ricciardi, a private lawyer who the county hired in the dispute, said he couldn't comment on the latest union push to block the vote because he hadn't seen the petition.

But in response to DiGiacomo's comments, Ricciardi said, "This was a lawful vote. The statute is pretty clear."

The County Commission voted 6-1 Tuesday to remove the 43 deputy district attorneys from the union and give them a 6 percent pay cut in a move aimed at saving the financially strapped county $390,000 a year.

County officials contended they were complying with Senate Bill 98, a new law that bars publicly paid attorneys who handle civil litigation from belonging to a union.

The prosecutors union had filed a lawsuit Friday alleging the county was unlawfully taking away union protections from its members guaranteed under state law. The lawsuit also alleged that SB98 was unconstitutional and that several attorneys on the county's list don't even do civil work.

On Wednesday, the county told at least one of those lawyers, Chief Deputy District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski, that he had been taken off the list.

Zadrowski, a longtime criminal lawyer in the district attorney's office, had criticized the county in Wednesday's Las Vegas Review-Journal for wrongly including him in the union purge.

Contact reporter Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.