weather icon Clear

North Las Vegas city manager Qiong Liu fired ‘for cause’

The North Las Vegas City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday night to fire Qiong Liu as city manager, following a heated debate over whether she attempted to give herself a $30,000 retroactive raise just days before her departure.

Liu spent more than 90 minutes explaining how she tried to remedy what she believed was an accounting error, but the council was not swayed. Councilman Richard Cherchio cast the dissenting vote.

“It was fixed. They already had their mind made up before they even came to the council meeting,” Liu said afterward. “I had to tell the truth and get this out in the public, because this has been going on for so long.”

The council also rejected a proposed $613,000 severance package that would have covered a year’s worth of pay, pension payments and health insurance, on top of a $32,125 merit pay and pension increase that would have been retroactive to November 2015.

The council’s move to fire Liu “for cause,” rather than allowing her to resign, means the former city manager is only entitled to cash out $230,000 on accrued vacation, holiday and sick pay.

Liu, who stepped down Jan. 10 as the city’s chief executive, has five days to request a public hearing to appeal the council’s decision.

“You had some problems, and you didn’t know how to work them out, and apparently you decided to take that one your own,” Mayor John Lee told Liu. “I’m very, very sad for that because I wanted to keep moving forward with you.”

While responding to public records requests from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and others, city staffers came across “a series of troubling emails,” Deputy City Attorney Claudia Aguayo said.

The batch of messages included a Jan. 4 directive from Liu to process a form that would have allowed her to receive a $30,000 raise retroactive to November 2015 without the required City Council approval, Aguayo said.

Liu was appointed city manager in 2014 with a starting annual salary of $190,000. It was raised to $220,000 in 2016.

If Liu had succeeded in January, then the $30,000 retroactive raise would have been prorated to run from November 2015 to September 2016, city officials said.

Liu was not eligible for a retroactive raise because she froze pay increases for all appointed employees, including herself, as the city grappled with a $152 million deficit in 2015, Aguayo said.

But Liu said she volunteered to defer her raise to 2016, anticipating that it would be retroactive to November 2015.

Liu said she believed the $30,000 raise awarded in September 2016 included retroactive payments, but she didn’t catch the “administrative error” until recently because her paychecks are directly deposited into her bank account.

City officials noted that Liu prepared and signed the document, which had no mention of “retroactive” raises.

“You are very, very intelligent, and I admire you for that and I know how particular you are with matters like that, so it gives me a perception that something is hidden,” Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown told Liu. “It’s just not common practice for errors like that to occur.”

Law enforcement officials are conducting a separate investigation into the matter.

The council’s decision follows unusual events surrounding Liu’s departure last month and the promotion of interim City Manager Ryann Juden, a friend and associate of the mayor.

An argument over water infrastructure funding at Apex Industrial Park ended when Liu fired Juden on Jan. 9.

Afterward, she sent an email to the City Council stating that hiring Juden was “the biggest mistake that I have made” and characterizing his presence as bringing “widespread fear and damage” to City Hall.

Even though Liu rescinded her statements and reversed Juden’s firing the following day

An argument over water infrastructure funding at Apex Industrial Park ended when Liu fired Juden on Jan. 9.

Afterward, she sent an email to the City Council stating that hiring Juden was “the biggest mistake that I have made” and characterizing his presence as bringing “widespread fear and damage” to City Hall.

Even though Liu rescinded her statements, city officials said her actions violated personnel policies.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of the retroactive raise for former North Las Vegas city manager Qiong Liu.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.