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Ex-North Las Vegas city manager sues mayor, city manager

The former chief executive of North Las Vegas is suing the city’s mayor and current city manager.

Qiong Liu filed the lawsuit Friday in Clark County District Court. She is seeking unspecified damages for what she alleges was a conspiracy by Mayor John Lee and City Manager Ryann Juden to oust her.

“This is clearly a ploy to circumvent the arbitration process that Qiong Liu agreed to two years ago,” North Las Vegas City Attorney Micaela Moore said in a statement. “Liu abused her position and betrayed the public’s trust, most egregiously by giving herself a raise without knowledge or permission from her bosses, the City Council.”

The North Las Vegas City Council voted in February 2018 to fire Liu “for cause.” Because she did not resign, she was only given a payout for unused sick and vacation time. Liu’s lawsuit accuses Lee and Juden of interfering with her contract and not allowing her to leave under a resignation agreement with a more lucrative severance package.

The lawsuit alleges Juden and Lee tried to make up accusations of wrongdoing to avoid potential political fallout had she resigned.

According to the lawsuit, Liu received positive performance reviews for her work in helping North Las Vegas wade through economic troubles.

However, in 2016, council members awarded her a $30,000 raise. She felt the raise should have been retroactive to her employment anniversary, according to the lawsuit.

On Jan. 4, 2018, she submitted paperwork to give herself a retroactive pay raise.

”She believed she was entitled to it, just as many other city employees, including Juden and many other appointed employees, had been treated,” the lawsuit reads.

Now she claims the decision to fire her was too harsh.

Juden, who worked on Lee’s political campaigns, was hired as a city employee after Lee was elected mayor. Despite being a subordinate of Liu in his eventual role as assistant city manager, Juden worked closely with Lee, the lawsuit alleges.

Liu claims Juden seemed to resent her efforts to supervise him or hold him accountable. Her relationship with Juden worsened through the end of 2017, and on Dec. 28 of that year, Lee asked Liu to allow Juden to take her spot as city manager, but did not provide a legitimate reason.

After she submitted the paperwork for a retroactive raise, Lee asked her to resign. In a subsequent meeting between Lee, Juden and Liu, Juden “threatened her” and “demanded that she resign immediately or that she would be fired,” the lawsuit states.

Instead, Liu fired Juden the next day and notified council members via email.

“Her legitimate reasons for doing so were not limited to his actions the day before,” the lawsuit reads.

The same day, Lee met with Liu to tell her he could wrangle the council votes necessary to fire her, according to the complaint. If she resigned, however, she would receive severance pay and benefits. She agreed to resign.

The next day, she was required to accept immediate administrative leave, and rescind Juden’s termination and her email notifying the City Council of her decision to fire him.

Juden permanently replaced Liu as city manager in April 2018.

Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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