Soaking taxpayers

We're torn on what's more outrageous: Ousted Henderson City Attorney Elizabeth Quillin leveraging a six-figure windfall from her drunken driving arrest, or the city of Henderson selling the payoff as a great deal for taxpayers.

Ms. Quillin crashed her Lexus SUV on May 23 -- a Monday that she was supposed to be working -- and then tried to drive away from the scene, nearly running over someone in the process. According to court records, Ms. Quillin's blood-alcohol level was 0.281 percent, more than three times Nevada's legal limit; her vehicle contained an open and nearly empty full-size bottle of wine.

She has pleaded innocent and will go to trial Sept. 27.

Almost three months after the crash -- a month of which was spent on paid administrtive leave -- Ms. Quillin finally resigned Monday in exchange for a $99,500 severance, almost $20,000 for accrued vacation time and 10 months of taxpayer-subsidized health insurance.

The Henderson City Council unanimously accepted the deal Monday, with Mayor Andy Hafen saying the city could have been out at least $500,000 if it had fired her. "It's a good business decision for us considering what we were facing," city Human Resources Director Fred Horvath said.

The city was facing a bigger bill because Ms. Quillin's contract made it next to impossible for her to be fired. Earlier this year, the city had to pay almost $1.3 million to fired City Manager Mary Kay Peck after an arbitrator upheld her breach-of-contract claim.

Ms. Quillin is certainly soaking already-beleaguered taxpayers. But Henderson officials are culpable in this mess because they agreed to a contract that made it impossible to fire an administrator for such an obvious breach.

Let this serve as yet another warning, not just to Henderson, but every public entity in the state: construct your personnel contracts carefully to better protect taxpayers from such obvious injustices.