Henderson City Council members said they put aside the influence from prominent political and community figures and the complaints from naysayers to determine that Josh Reid was the best applicant to become the next city attorney.
The council voted 4-0 at a special meeting Nov. 29 with one abstaining.
The council's search was scrutinized after Reid, the son of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., became a top candidate. Interim city attorney Christine Guerci-Nyhus was the other finalist.
Mayor Andy Hafen and Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion said Harry Reid contacted them to lobby on his son's behalf, but they said the phone call didn't affect their decision. The other council members said Reid did not contact them.
Josh Reid contributed $200, an amount that was on the low end of individual contributions, to Councilman Sam Bateman's campaign this year. The money was contributed on June 19, according to Bateman's campaign contribution report.
"I did not know he made a contribution," Bateman said. "I had so many contributions come in. It could have easily been mailed in or given at a fundraising event. I don't know."
Four other attorneys from Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck, where Reid works, also contributed to Bateman's campaign in mid-May.
Hafen and Vermillion also disclosed that they have past ties to the Reid family. Hafen's daughter worked for Harry Reid, and former Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, another one of his sons, sits on the board of Vermillion's nonprofit charity, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
Residents wrote letters to the city and media outlets exclaiming their belief that the city might have lowered standards for Reid to appease the senator. The original qualifications were amended, opening the field to attorneys with experience in both the private and public sectors.
Hafen said all decisions were made in the best interest of the city.
"I am aware of and respect the public's opinion," Hafen said.
Of about 70 people at the special meeting, which included a mix of city employees and residents, two spoke during public comment.
Robert Sulliman, a five-year resident of Sun City Anthem, said he was appalled that the city lowered its standards and qualifications.
"I don't care if the president of the United States calls you to tell you who you should hire," Sulliman said. "There is too much nepotism in this city. I find it disturbing the influx of political favors done in this state."
Randy Rieder, an 18-year Henderson resident, read from a prepared statement voicing similar concerns.
"I think it is outrageous you lowered the standards," Rieder said.
Bateman, who also is an attorney, said he was the one who asked human resources to amend the qualifications for the position.
"I have sat in on probably 70 interviews for attorneys," Bateman said. "I feel I have a good background for judging qualifications."
Bateman said the qualifications were too limiting and didn't necessarily determine who would be best qualified.
"People (in the legal profession) asked me, 'Who are you trying to hire? The attorney general?' " Bateman said.
Hafen added that not even the Nevada Supreme Court justices would have met the previous qualifications.
Vermillion said she received endorsements on behalf of several candidates that included letters from Secretary of State Ross Miller, members of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board, District Attorney David Roger, political adviser Sig Rogich and several law firms.
"As cold as it may sound, (I got) calls two days after (former city attorney Elizabeth Quillin was charged with driving under the influence)," Hafen said. "I have gotten too many calls and emails (endorsing applicants) to count."
Rieder was not convinced.
"I think a call from Sen. Reid weighs heavier than a call from any other (endorsement)," Rieder said.
Councilwoman Gerri Schroder said she was still conflicted over who was the best applicant.
"These honestly weren't even my first choice of candidates," Schroder said. "But they were the top two we could all agree on."
Bateman said considering the economic state of the city, he felt someone in the private sector would be a good fit for the position, leaving Reid as the candidate in mind.
Vermillion, who abstained from the vote after announcing that she planned to resign Jan. 1, said she would have voted for Reid.
"I didn't come to the conclusion Josh Reid was the best candidate because I'm concerned about being re-elected," Vermillion said.
Vermillion said Reid's managerial experience, ability to manage a budget and experience in the private sector makes him an asset to the city.
Councilwoman Debra March, who did not attend the meeting but participated via phone, said Reid's hiring was the best outcome because it allows the city to employ the top two applicants for city attorney.
After Rieder heard the vote, he said he was disappointed with the council's decision.
"They already made up their minds before they came in here," Rieder said. "The interim attorney seemed to be doing a good enough job. If she wasn't, she wouldn't be the interim attorney."
Both Rieder and Sulliman warned the council of the potential political costs when the position is up for re-election.
"Some people are never going to believe that (we didn't modify qualifications)," Hafen said. "That doesn't change the facts."
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Josh Reid's contract is being decided and he could receive a salary between $127,000 and $199,000.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-5201.