weather icon Clear

North Las Vegas, former city manager going to arbitration over firing

Updated March 7, 2018 - 7:46 pm

North Las Vegas city officials will go into arbitration with former city manager Qiong Liu to discuss the circumstances of her firing.

The announcement from city officials Wednesday came a little more than an hour before the City Council was scheduled to hold a public hearing requested by Liu to discuss allegations that the former city manager attempted to give herself a $30,000 retroactive raise.

The public hearing was canceled, but the City Council unanimously approved a separate agenda item upholding a Feb. 7 decision to fire Liu.

Going into arbitration “would afford me a full and fair opportunity to review evidence, secure additional evidence and information relevant to my side of the story, to question witnesses under oath and thereafter to present my side in a reasoned and rational setting with some procedural rules to ensure fairness,” Liu wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to the City Council.

Liu’s attorney, Kathy England, declined to comment further. The pair did not attend the council meeting on Wednesday.

Moving forward, England and city officials will look for an independent mediator to determine whether Liu should have been fired “for cause,” and whether she is entitled to a severance package totaling more than $700,000, said Las Vegas attorney Gregory Kamer, whose firm Kamer Zucker Abbott is representing North Las Vegas.

City officials had offered arbitration more than a week ago to Liu, who accepted on Wednesday.

“After weeks of good faith negotiating and in light of the troubling new facts that came to light, our City Council is exercising its right and upholding its duty to protect taxpayer money by terminating Liu’s employment and letting a neutral arbitrator review the council’s decision to terminate for cause,” city spokeswoman Delen Goldberg said.

Liu has repeatedly characterized the allegations as a “personal vendetta” aimed at keeping her from collecting a hefty severance due to butting heads with interim City Manager Ryann Juden, a friend and associate of Mayor John Lee.

The North Las Vegas City Council voted Feb. 7 to to fire Liu “for cause” rather than allowing her to resign. The council also agreed that Liu should not receive a severance and was entitled only to cash out roughly $300,000 in accrued vacation, holiday and sick pay, which she will still receive.

An internal investigation completed by the Las Vegas law firm of Fisher Phillips found Liu had prepared an internal memo seeking the pay raise on Jan. 4 — one day after the North Las Vegas City Council delayed a discussion about the city manager’s performance.

Her assistant forwarded the memo to the city’s human resources department, believing it was already delivered to the City Council, according to the report, released by the city last week after a public records request from the Review-Journal. The memo was never delivered, and the report found that Liu had time to send it “if she wanted to.”

Liu was appointed city manager in 2014 with a starting 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.

An addendum to the report on Feb. 28 also found that Liu had her city-issued cellphone wiped clean, making for a potential violation in city and state public records laws.

Documents obtained last month by the Review-Journal confirmed that an FBI agent has visited North Las Vegas City Hall at least twice to look into the allegations against Liu.

The move toward arbitration late Wednesday caps two months of unusual events involving Liu. An argument over water infrastructure funding at Apex Industrial Park ended when Liu fired Juden on Jan. 9 without consulting the city attorney.

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

Even though Liu rescinded her statements and reversed her firing of Juden the following day, city officials said her actions violated personnel policies and procedures.

City officials have not determined whether to search for a permanent city manager or allow Juden to remain in the role.

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
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.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)