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
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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)