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Bill empowers union on talks

CARSON CITY — The Assembly and state Senate both approved an amended version of a bill Saturday that will make the Clark County sheriff or his designee the sole negotiator with police union representatives in contracts for the Police Department.

Assembly Bill 130 had been killed in the Senate on an 11-10 vote on May 22, but state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, won a vote to revive the bill and added amendments that both houses approved.

The bill, which goes to Gov. Jim Gibbons for his signature or veto, changes a current law that says two members of the Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs and the sheriff or his representative are to participate in negotiations for contracts and other matters.

Typically the two fiscal affairs committee members were elected officials from the Las Vegas City Council or the Clark County Commission. Under the bill, these officials may only "monitor" the negotiations.

Any contract agreed upon by the sheriff and the police union must be presented to the fiscal affairs committee for approval.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman all have said they did not favor the bill.

"We have to be at the table," Goodman said last week.

Contacted Saturday, Sisolak said he has not heard from any constituents who like the bill.

"The taxpayers of Clark County, through their representatives in the city and county, should do the negotiations," he said. "This is a dangerous precedent. Should the chief do the negotiations for the Fire Department? Should David Roger do the negotiations for the district attorneys?"

But legislators backed changes sought by David Kallas, a police detective who is director of government affairs and chief lobbyist for the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the union that represents 2,500 officers.

"The city and county said they have to be in the room, and they will be in the room, the difference being that rather than participating in the actual negotiations they can observe and report back to their bosses," Kallas said. "They are there to monitor."

Kallas said the change will simplify the negotiation process.

"Instead of having to spend six or seven months in negotiating a contract we can get it done in five weeks, like our last contract," he added.

He contended the sheriff will not automatically back pay increases sought by the union.

"He is the representative of the voters," Kallas said. "The sheriff is also our employer. You have a sheriff who understands his responsibilities."

Lee said he does not believe the sheriff would necessarily be inclined to give higher wages to police officers just because he came up through the ranks.

"He has police experience and he is elected to oversee the department," Lee said. "If you are going to be sheriff, you better know how to run a business.

Kallas added that having city or county officials in the negotiations often has been an impediment to reaching resolutions.

Besides negotiating salaries, the sides often resolve differences on grievances and appeals matters, he said.

He contended the city or county officials sometimes would object to adopting an appeal process for police officers because they are concerned that other city or county employees would want the same procedure.

Contact Review-Journal Capital Bureau reporter Ed Vogel at evogel @reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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