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Cashing in

The cries that come from the political class are as predictable as the tides and sunrise. State lawmakers and city councilmen, judges, sheriffs and county commissioners all claim they’re underpaid and deserve significant pay raises.

Their arguments are based solely on their base annual compensation. The fact that they collect phenomenal benefits — vacation time, health insurance and pensions — is ignored.

The name recognition that they build? Irrelevant. The power and influence of their offices, and the relationships they develop with others in positions of power and influence? Immaterial.

Focused exclusively on the present, they demand more compensation for their services — and they usually get it.

Then, when they leave office, a funny thing happens. They find their understanding of government and their experience navigating various bureaucracies has tremendous value to people who have business before public bodies — and especially to those seeking protection from over-reaching regulation.

Indeed, public service in Nevada has a big payoff.

Take the case of Richard Perkins, the Henderson police chief who, until last year, was Assembly speaker. Mr. Perkins has established his own consulting company to “provide strategic advice and counsel” on how things work in Carson City. Mr. Perkins said he advises a select few companies on “positioning, messages, understanding public officials and government bureaucracy.”

The city of Henderson thinks so much of Mr. Perkins’ service that they send the police chief to Carson City every week or so to testify on behalf of legislation that affects the state’s second-largest municipality. This frequent contact with current lawmakers — funded by taxpayers — further augments Mr. Perkins’ marketability as a consultant.

Having Henderson’s top cop wear a second hat opens the possibility for conflicts of interest. Mr. Perkins says he doesn’t advise anyone who has dealings with city government. But Mr. Perkins insists on keeping his list of clients confidential, so how will the public he serves know for certain whether those who augment his generous police salary have been afforded special treatment?

Regardless of the ethical issues surrounding Mr. Perkins’ moonlighting, let his new line of work stand as a shining example of the value of serving in elected office. In Nevada, public service pays very well indeed.

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