As part of a late 2010 agreement between the city of North Las Vegas and its Police Officers Association, the union agreed to sit down for more contract talks if a “mutually agreed upon third party” determined the city’s budget shortfall required further concessions.
The city certainly has a prima facie case. Property tax revenues have plunged by 60 percent during the recession. The city has gone through several rounds of budget cuts since late 2008, eliminating or freezing nearly 900 positions, yet still faces a $30.3 million shortfall.
The police union responded by hiring the aforementioned “mutually agreed upon third party,” forensic accountant Mark Alden, who also serves on the state Board of Regents.
Mr. Alden’s conclusion? The city’s current budget shortfall “absolutely does not require further concessions from the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association.” Instead, the city “needs to … reassess the policy priorities.”
Specifically, the city has $36 million set aside to pay for utilities. It could use that money to avoid police layoffs, Mr. Alden asserts.
Good heavens. City Councilwoman Anita Wood says she was shocked, shocked when she read Mr. Alden’s report. “He is espousing the POA’s view,” she said. “It makes no sense.”
But the city had to sign off on the union’s choice of Mr. Alden, whose politics as a regent are hardly a secret. The union paid the gentleman $15,000 to produce what amounts to a political call on matters outside the skill set of standard accountancy, judgments on matters like the appropriate use of utility funds — and the councilwoman is “shocked” that Mr. Alden delivered what his employers asked for?
Now Jeff Allen, the union’s attorney, says that while the union still is committed to working with the city, it is “not legally obligated in any way” to do so, that if the city follows through on more layoffs “the union would have a breach of contract claim.”
Did the city really sign an agreement six months ago, promising “no more layoffs”?
Boneheaded agreements like this aren’t strengthening the city’s bargaining position.
Who’s giving them their legal advice?