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Las Vegas repeals law forcing city employees to take unpaid leave

A divided Las Vegas City Council rolled back a rule that calls for city employees who run for public office to take unpaid leave.

The council voted 4-3 Wednesday to repeal a 2004 ordinance requiring city employees-turned political candidates to be placed on an unpaid leave of absence during their time on the ballot.

The ordinance was intended to prevent future abuses by city employees who pull double-duty in the Nevada Legislature.

Councilman Ricki Barlow sponsored the repeal effort, and contends the city should not regulate what employees do “after 5 p.m.”

Barlow fell under the unpaid leave rule when he first ran for his council seat in 2007, when he was working for the city.

“My city badge, my cellphone, my PERS, my vacation, my sick leave — everything came to a halt and it was as though on the books I did not work for the city of Las Vegas,” said Barlow, who was traveling Wednesday and called in to participate in the City Council meeting. “When I won, the meter started again.”

Las Vegas has stood alone among Southern Nevada governments in requiring city employees who are political candidates to take an unpaid leave of absence, since a pair of former Nevada assemblymen who were city employees were found to be abusing their sick time.

Then-Nevada assemblymen Wendell Williams and Morse Arberry claimed sick pay through the city when they weren’t ill and failed to turn in paperwork for their time off, a 2003 audit found.

Months later, the City Council adopted several changes to prevent further abuses, including unpaid leave for city employees who are candidates and if they win, unpaid leave during the Nevada Legislature’s sessions every other year.

The city’s longstanding policy that addresses municipal employees running for political office and serving as an elected official will need to be updated to come in line with the new direction, City Manager Scott Adams said.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman, and Councilwomen Lois Tarkanian and Michele Fiore joined Barlow in voting to repeal the measure Wednesday.

Councilman Bob Coffin called the move premature.

“This is a bludgeon to fix a problem that affected our councilman years ago,” Coffin said.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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