Henderson to pay new city attorney $190,000, benefits

Josh Reid is in line to earn $190,000 a year when he starts work as the Henderson city attorney, a sum near the top of the pay scale for the position and the same salary former City Attorney Elizabeth Quillin earned.

The pay scale is $127,000 to $199,000 in Henderson, the second-most populous city in Nevada.

According to public records, the city attorney in Las Vegas, the biggest city in the state, earns more than $213,000, and the city attorney of North Las Vegas, the fourth-biggest city, earns more than $211,000. Those figures do not include benefits.

The City Council on Nov. 29 picked Reid amid controversy after it was learned his father, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, called at least two council members to lobby for his son.

There were also allegations the city lowered the job requirements for Reid to become eligible, an allegation Mayor Andy Hafen and other council members denied in a meeting last month. Reid has been a practicing attorney in Nevada and Utah for a decade.

If the City Council approves the contract at its meeting Tuesday, Josh Reid would start work on Dec. 26.

Quillin lost her job in August after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge.

In addition to being eligible for employee benefit plans afforded other city management personnel, Reid will receive $1,000 a month for three months to keep his COBRA health insurance benefits active until his 90-day waiting period ends and he becomes eligible for the city’s plan.

The $3,000 the city will pay accounts for half of what Reid pays to his current employer. He will be responsible for paying the remaining $3,000, Human Resources Director Fred Horvath said.

Reid’s contract provides a generous severance package if the city terminates him without cause. He would be paid any accrued sick leave, banked holidays and annual leave and a lump sum payment equal to 12 months salary.

The city also would pay the cost of nine months of health insurance coverage should Reid be terminated without cause.

While Reid’s salary is equal to his predecessor’s, Councilman Sam Bateman said the contract isn’t as one-sided as others the city has entered into in recent years.

"At the end of the day, the salary and severance clauses are to provide some level of security," he said. "This is an at-will job, meaning Mr. Reid keeps his job or loses his job at the whim of elected officials. It’s really hard to get top-notch talent and tell them they have no security."

Bateman said Reid’s contract is reasonable and less generous than previous employee contracts.

Reid could be terminated with cause if he is charged — not convicted — with a criminal misdemeanor offense. Previous contracts allowed for dismissal only for felony convictions.

Should Reid be terminated with cause — which would require a material breach of his contract — he would be paid accrued vacation time and sick pay, but not severance benefits.

"The biggest concern I have about the contract, not just this one but all of them, is that it is so difficult to fire someone for cause," Bateman said. "It is too arduous to actually fire someone who’s done something inappropriate."

City officials agreed to a settlement with Quillin because her contract was so narrowly defined she could not be fired with cause despite the DUI. She was paid nearly $100,000 in a buyout and an additional $20,000 for accrued vacation time and 10 months of health insurance coverage.

While the payout left a bitter taste in the mouths of council members, they would have had to pay her about $320,000 had they terminated her without cause. The agreement was reached with Quillin’s attorneys the first week of August, a few weeks before she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.

Hafen at a subsequent City Council meeting ordered staff to review and amend how employment contracts were structured to avoid issues similar to what happened with Quillin.

Under the proposed contract, Reid could be paid a vehicle allowance of $550 a month and would be entitled to automatic cost-of-living adjustments.

Those two benefits would be available only if they are reinstated for managers. City officials last year canceled the car allowance and cost-of-living adjustments as part of an overall cost-cutting effort.

Reid would be paid to renew his Nevada State Bar license each year. The fee is $450 per year for attorneys licensed in Nevada for five or more years. He is required to reside in Henderson, which he already does.

The City Council is expected to ratify Reid’s employment contract when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall.

Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

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