Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2016

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Las Vegas government pay raises called ‘wrong thing to do’

One city employee, earning $121,000, got $25,000 bump

Coroner's Inquest

A federal judge says there's nothing unconstitutional about cops getting grilled during inquests into fatal police shootings. That's the word in the order from a federal judge, but the attorney for the cops is appealing. We'll talk to the attorney representing the cops. Plus, peace officers at the City of Las Vegas say they're being shafted while city management prospers. Are they right? We'll hear from city manager Betsy Fretwell and a union official.

Pay increases given to 42 Las Vegas city employees is raising some eyebrows as the cash-strapped city deals with a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

The city recently gave employees identified in a salary compensation study pay increases averaging $6,302 a year.

The largest: $25,179 to an engineering program manager whose base annual salary is now $121,566.

The smallest: a $2,291 increase to an office specialist, who now makes $48,108 a year.

In total, $264,677 dollars in pay increases were given.

The controversy over the growing salaries was brought to the public’s attention when the Las Vegas Peace Officers Association ran a newspaper ad accusing the city of “crying poverty” while giving out raises.

Click to enlarge photo

Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell in her office at City Hall.

Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which recently granted several concessions in a contract with the city, said raising the pay of select employees “was the wrong thing to do.”

“If I were city manager, I would have said to those people ‘you’re going to get a raise when everybody else gets a raise,’ ” Collins said.

City spokesman David Riggleman argued that the increases were not raises, rather “adjustments” to improve pay equity.

Riggleman said the pay increases came about after a classification and compensation study and were given to bring salaries in line with the market and ensure supervisors did not earn less than their subordinates.

Riggleman said none of the salary adjustments went to department heads or senior executives, and that management and administration employees in the city have not seen a raise in more than three years.

The city has cut $115 million in expenditures over three years from its general fund — which is used to pay employee salaries — through cost-savings, pay cuts, union concessions and layoffs. The city is still projecting a $7 million deficit in its general fund for the upcoming fiscal year.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak

While several unions have agreed to concessions, Collins, of the police officers union, said the raises were given without much public scrutiny.

The city’s actions, Collins said, could make future union negotiations more difficult and undermine taxpayers’ confidence in government. “Services are being cut, hours are being cut and you’re crying poverty yet you have the ability to give these people raises?” he said.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said the city’s pay increases could make things more difficult for Clark County, as its employees compare salaries and request raises of their own.

“One of the important things is we do have to treat each other fairly,” Sisolak said. “When you give raises to one group, I don’t know how you can go to another and ask for concessions.”

Sisolak said he respects the city’s authority to budget how it sees fit but that similar raises would not happen at the county. “I can tell you in the county we don’t have the money to do what they did,” he said.

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