County, firefighters union continue wrangling

Clark County and its firefighters union will not publicize their final contract offers in arbitration, despite proclaiming months ago that they would.

It’s the latest stalemate in the dispute over a one-year renewal of the firefighters contract, which expired in July.

Monday was the deadline for the county and union to present their final offers to the arbitrator, who by law must choose one or the other within 10 days.

Wrangling between the two sides has intensified as the county seeks contract concessions amid a budget crunch and the union tries to give up as little as possible.

County and union officials issued short written statements Monday.

“While the county was willing to share its last, best offer with the public, the union’s unwillingness to release its last, best offer precludes us from releasing ours at this time,” said newly appointed County Manager Don Burnette, who was the county’s lead negotiator in contract talks.

Burnette added that “as soon as the arbitrator renders a decision, the county would gladly release the transcript, the decision and the county’s offer.”

Ryan Beaman, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1908, would not explain why he changed his mind about disclosing the union’s offer.

“The statute does not provide for making the final offers public at this time, nor did the parties agree to do so at the conclusion of the hearing,” Beaman wrote.

Union leaders declared an impasse in bargaining in August after the county rejected what they claimed were $9.7 million in concessions. County officials contend that the savings were inflated.

Beaman stated publicly at the time that he would make the union’s final offer public and called on the county to do the same.

Arbitration hearings are exempt from Nevada’s open meeting law, making them and all contents off-limits to the public, said county spokesman Erik Pappa.

County officials asked the arbitrator whether the final offers could be aired publicly, and the arbitrator replied that it would be OK if the union agreed to it, Pappa said.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said the public has a right to know details about a contract dispute involving tax dollars, especially in these tough fiscal times.

“If you want people to trust what you’re doing, then you have to open it up,” Smith said. “If you keep it secret, then it leaves people’s imaginations to fill in the blanks.”

Commissioner Steve Sisolak, a staunch critic of firefighters compensation, said he would like both sides to release the final offers in their entirety.

“I’m in favor of having everything open and transparent to the public,” Sisolak said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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