Complaint hovers over Henderson’s new assistant city manager

Henderson’s new assistant city manager has some baggage from his last job.

The city recently announced the hiring of Gregory Blackburn to replace Fred Horvath as one of Henderson’s assistant city managers who oversees public works, building code and parks and recreation. Blackburn, who worked for Henderson for 14 years before leaving in 2009, is the director of community development and compliance for North Las Vegas.

But since last August, Blackburn, 55, has been at the center of a complaint with the state’s Employee Management Relations Board, a body that handles disputes between government employees and agencies. The complaint was filed against North Las Vegas and Teamsters Local 14.

In that complaint, a North Las Vegas employee accused Blackburn of offering to protect her from Mayor John Lee’s retaliation if she would would have sex with him, and also accused him of fostering a hostile work environment.

In filings with the board, the employee, Pamela Dittmar, claimed the mayor forced her to move to a job in the business licensing department — in which she had no experience — when she worked in economic development. The complaint also contends that Lee asked Dittmar “inappropriate questions of a sexual nature,” although the exact questions were not spelled out in the complaint. The mayor also told her “he could get other ‘pretty people’ to occupy (Dittmar’s) position,” the complaint says.

As part of the move, Blackburn became Dittmar’s boss. The employee alleged Blackburn “made an unwanted sexual advance … by inviting her to his hotel suite, which was being paid for by the city,” the complaint says, further claiming that “Blackburn’s inappropriate behavior was meant as a quid pro quo for his protection against the mayor’s disfavor.”

Blackburn and the city both adamantly denied the allegations in filings in the case.

“I’m not worried about it because there’s no truth in the accusations,” Blackburn said in an interview Wednesday with the Review-Journal.

Even with such allegations hanging overhead, Henderson City Manager Bob Murnane decided it wasn’t enough to keep city from bringing back his longtime former colleague. The two worked for Henderson during Blackburn’s first stint from 1996 to 2009.

“We did look through that. There are allegations that I think were unsubstantiated,” Murnane said, citing a third-party investigator’s findings that could not substantiate Dittmar’s claims. The findings of the investigator, who was hired by North Las Vegas, are part of the case.

Murnane said Blackburn was on the “short list” of people he wanted to interview for the job because of his nearly two decades worth of experience with building codes and inspections. Blackburn’s involvement in helping bring major tech companies such as Faraday Future and Hyperloop to North Las Vegas are signs of his strengths as a city official, Murnane added.

“It was worth getting a good candidate,” he said. “I don’t know how long this will play out. He’s a viable candidate, and I think he’ll fit in with the city perfectly.”

The two sides in the Employee Management Relations Board case met for a settlement conference Feb. 19, but no deal was reached. The board will hear the case later this year, according to a spokesman.

Going back to Henderson, where he has lived for 53 years, “is like going back home,” Blackburn said.

During his previous 14-year tenure with Henderson, Blackburn worked his way up to the position of inspection services manager, handling the city’s building inspections and code enforcement.

In early 2009, Blackburn left that job, taking a salary cut to start working as a North Las Vegas building official. Blackburn called the move “a promotional opportunity” and said the pay drop was because he was new to the city and had to start at a lower tier.

In his new role, Blackburn will see a significant pay boost. The new assistant city manager’s base salary will start around $180,000, according to Murnane.

Blackburn is slated to start his new job Monday. The City Council is expected to ratify it during the council meeting the following day.

Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

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