Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie was furious earlier this month when Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak accused the valley’s top cop of working with the officers’ union and an arbitrator to rig the bargaining process and secure police pay raises. Mr. Gillespie was equally angry that Mr. Sisolak did not first call him to share his concerns about the arbitration hearings.
Monday morning, the sheriff and Mr. Sisolak finally could have that conversation — in public, appropriately enough — when the Metropolitan Police Department Fiscal Affairs Committee is briefed on the arbitration award that handed Las Vegas officers a 0.75 percent raise in each of the next two years and boosted their medical benefits by 13.46 percent.
The meeting is at 8:30 a.m. in Building B at police headquarters on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Mr. Sisolak serves on the committee with fellow Commissioner Larry Brown, Las Vegas City Councilmen Stavros Anthony and Ricki Barlow and businessman Jim Hammer.
The decision by Chicago arbitrator Robert Perkovich resulted in a $7 million increase in department costs just as Mr. Gillespie was appealing to Mr. Sisolak and the rest of the commission for a sales tax increase to boost the force’s budget. The commission narrowly rejected the tax increase Oct. 1, although it will hear a new sales tax proposal next month.
But the arbitration award isn’t helping Mr. Gillespie’s case, especially after county counsel Mary-Anne Miller blasted the decision in an opinion requested by Mr. Sisolak. She determined the process of selecting Mr. Perkovich as the arbitrator violated state law, as did the lack of documentation from the hearings, the lack of written offers from the department and the union, and the arbitrator’s lack of lawful reasons for his decision. The public still doesn’t even know which party the arbitrator sided with.
The process through which arbitrators decide the salaries and benefits of unionized public employees is bad enough to begin with. It’s closed to the public and the press. There would be far fewer questions about this decision if there were openness in collective bargaining. An even better solution would be to get rid of binding arbitration and have elected bodies settle labor disputes.
So it will be up to the members of the Fiscal Affairs Committee to ask hard questions of Mr. Gillespie and the department. Did the department offer a contract the public could afford? Did the department provide arguments against the offer from the officers’ union? Did the department’s negotiators even understand the laws that guide arbitration? It should be an enlightening conversation.
Once the committee hears the department’s answers to these questions, it can start the process of beginning arbitration anew. A pact that breaks the law can’t be allowed to stand.