Commissioners vote to de-unionize 43 prosecutors, trim pay

Forty-three prosecutors will be removed from their union and take a 6 percent pay cut in an action that Clark County leaders say will save $390,000 a year and comply with a new state law.

But union leaders are expected to seek a temporary restraining order today to block the move.

County commissioners voted 6-1 Tuesday to de-unionize prosecutors in the civil division and to classify them as managers.

Commissioners also approved trimming the prosecutors' wages to put them more in line with other managers in the county whose salaries were frozen for three years before taking a 2 percent pay cut.

The measure comes as the county and the 146-member union prepare for arbitration to resolve an impasse in bargaining.

County officials contend they are merely complying with new legislation -- Senate Bill 98 -- that bars publicly paid attorneys who handle litigation from belonging to a union.

The union filed a lawsuit Friday alleging such actions breach its collective bargaining agreement with the county and wrongly nullify employees' protections under state labor laws. Union leaders also argue that SB98 is unconstitutional and want to stop its enforcement.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said the pay cut will create more parity with other county attorneys.

"It will bring them more in line with the public defenders," Sisolak said.

Prosecutors earned an average of $166,000 in pay and benefits last year. Their wages have increased by almost 15 percent yearly since 2009, while public defenders' pay dropped about 1.5 percent during that time.

County Manager Don Burnette said the 6 percent wage reduction amounts to snipping cost-of-living raises for two years and leaving other raises intact. For that reason, the pay cuts aren't as severe as what managers have endured since 2008, he added.

Commissioner Tom Collins disagreed with cutting the prosecutors' pay, arguing that many of them have fended off lawsuits that would have cost the county millions of dollars.

He suggested that the county wait until the court makes a ruling on the dispute before taking any action.

The lawsuit also charges that many union members aren't civil lawyers.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Bernie Zadrowski said he was "shocked" to learn Tuesday that he was among those losing their labor rights.

"It's not only a bad idea, but it's an illegal idea," Zadrowski said. "It's taking food off my dinner table for my kids without any due process."

Zadrowski said he always has been a criminal prosecutor. He spent more than six years at the helm of the district attorney's criminal bad-check unit until June 20, when he transferred to a regular criminal track in the office.

If he has to suffer a 6 percent pay cut because of the commission vote, he will personally sue the county, he said.

"Obviously, county management never did any research in the determination of who would be on the list," Zadrowski said. "It sounds like they randomly picked people. I can think of no other reason why I would be on the list."

Review-Journal writer Jeff German contributed to this report. Contact reporter Scott Wyland at or 702-455-4519.