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Henderson council race heats up with attack ad

With early voting to start Saturday, the race to replace term-limited Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk just turned ugly.

Candidate Sam Bateman has unleashed a new hit piece that accuses opponent Michael Mayberry of collecting disability pay on top of his city pension, even though he’s not disabled.

Mayberry spent almost 30 years with the Henderson Police Department, including more than five years as chief, before stepping down because of serious heart problems in 2005.

Bateman’s ad, which landed in mailboxes this week, accuses Mayberry of "scamming the public employee retirement system" by collecting an annual pension of $130,000 plus more than $30,000 a year in disability pay.

Bateman, chairman of the Henderson Planning Commission, said he sent out the ad because "the general public obviously has a right to know."

"I was just shocked when I saw those numbers," Bateman said. "Now he’s saying to the city of Henderson, ‘Hire me back for another $45,000 a year.’ "

Mayberry’s campaign manager Steve Redlinger dismissed the mailer as an unwarranted attack on a man who served honorably for three decades. He said it is a "medical fact" that serious and permanent heart damage forced Mayberry to quit his job as police chief at age 52.

"He didn’t retire because he wanted to retire," Redlinger said.

Mayberry’s health has improved since 2005, but his doctors would not allow him to return to a pressure-packed law enforcement job, Redlinger said.

Serving on the City Council is another story.

Redlinger said Mayberry, now 58 , will have to be careful not to overdo it, but he is healthy enough to represent Ward 4. Being a councilman is "far less stressful than investigating a murder or serving on the state’s Homeland Security commission," Redlinger said.

Bateman’s ad quotes a radio interview Mayberry gave during his unsuccessful 2009 mayoral campaign in which the former chief said he did not consider himself disabled, but would stop collecting disability only if elected.

That may, in fact, be a requirement.

City spokesman Bud Cranor said state regulations typically require public employees to give up disability pay should they return to work for the city.

Bateman, 33, and Mayberry are considered the frontrunners in the six-candidate race to replace Kirk, who has represented Ward 4 since 1999. Kirk has endorsed Bateman and publicly criticized Mayberry over the disability pay issue.

"If you’re looking for a good old boy, that’s him," Kirk said of the former police chief. "I think the public is tired of these double- and triple-dipping public employees who are out to take advantage of the system."

The two men had a falling out after the 2009 mayoral race, when Mayberry was eliminated in the primary and threw his support to eventual winner Andy Hafen instead of Kirk. Henderson City Council members are paid $44,288 a year, plus benefits. If elected, Bateman will collect that money in addition to the roughly $100,000 a year in base pay he makes as a Clark County prosecutor.

The mailer targeting Mayberry appears to be the first attack ad in what so far has been a relatively quiet municipal election in Henderson. Early voting for the April 5 primary election starts Saturday. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the top two finishers will advance to the general election June 7.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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