Ten high-ranking North Las Vegas officials, including Police Chief Joseph Forti, recently agreed to take executive buyouts to save the cash-strapped city $2.4 million in fiscal year 2011.
But the City Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to waive the city's hiring freeze to replace two of those 10 employees -- Forti and the city's finance director -- which might seem to defeat the purpose in those cases.
After the "executive incentive packages" were approved, Acting City Manager Maryann Ustick said, "some members of the council had concerns about not having a finance director in this economic environment."
She pointed out that the assistant finance director also took a buyout, and other city employees don't have the credentials to manage the city's finances in a challenging economy.
In contrast, the city doesn't necessarily plan to replace Forti right away, she said.
"We'll be appointing an acting chief."
It was simply more practical to lump requests to waive the hiring freeze together for council approval, she said.
North Las Vegas has no plans at the moment to replace the remaining eight high-ranking officials. The city is consolidating departments to lessen the effect of losing department higher-ups in what is its third round of employee buyouts.
Ustick wasn't sure how much in savings the city would lose by hiring a new finance director to replace Phil Stoeckinger.
But "there's no question that's a cost," she said.
Several council members defended the city's plan to hire a new finance director, despite the cost.
"Some positions have to be filled," Mayor Shari Buck said.
Councilman Richard Cherchio called it "ludicrous" to "establish an across-the-board (hiring) freeze and then come to an issue that needs to be addressed and we can't because we don't have the staff."
"You have to have the latitude to run the city," he said.
Stoeckinger, whose "exit date" is June 18, accepted a buyout package of $103,685. The council on Wednesday approved recruiting a new finance director to be paid between $150,849 and $221,965 in salary and benefits. Stoeckinger's current salary, not including benefits, is $166,954.
Forti, whose exit date is June 4, accepted a buyout package of $215,572. The Council approved the "future recruitment" of a new chief to be paid between $158,790 and $233,648 a year in salary and benefits. Forti's current salary, excluding benefits, is $169,844. He has been the city's police chief since March 2008.
Those who took the buyouts were given the choice between taking two weeks of pay for each year of service or allowing the city to buy them two years' worth of credit in the Public Employees' Retirement System, Ustick said.
Other high-ranking officials who took the buyout included the city's director of information technology, director of economic development and chief marshal.
The Council on Wednesday also approved the "future recruitment" of a new city manager to receive $268,638 in salary and benefits. Former City Manager Gregory Rose resigned late last year, taking with him $337,040 in severance pay.
The city, which has been dealing with plummeting revenues in recent years, in April approved cutting 204 city jobs to save money.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@review journal.com or 702-383-0285.