Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2015

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Unions target North Las Vegas councilman up for re-election

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Richard Cherchio

Election season is already heating up in North Las Vegas, even though candidates won’t officially file to run for office until the end of the month.

The North Las Vegas Police Officers Association and the North Las Vegas Firefighters Union will pass out more than 5,000 door hangers Saturday to condemn sitting Councilman Richard Cherchio for failing to list three of his four North Las Vegas residences on his official campaign finance forms in 2009.

The unions’ protest is also, and perhaps more so, about Cherchio’s perceived votes to cut public safety. He's become the target because he's up for re-election.

Cherchio claims the houses – two of which he bought to rent to his daughter and sister-in-law – were listed on forms during his bid for council in 2007. He didn't list them in 2009, he said, because a city staffer told him he didn’t have to.

“Regarding my oversight in listing all of the property that I own, I received advice from a city staffer when completing my disclosure form, but I should have verified that advice,” Cherchio said in a statement. “I accept full responsibility for that oversight, and have already filed an amended disclosure form.”

“Why would I try to cover them up if I listed them in 2007?” Cherchio asked during an interview. “That would be really stupid.”

In October, City Manager Maryann Ustick presented the council with the city staff’s budget reduction plan. The plan was drafted to help the city close a $35.1 million budget gap over the next two years.

According to the plan, 27 police officers and 33 firefighters would be laid off if no concessions were made.

That was a threat, said Michael Yarter, president of the police officers' association. He bristled at the idea that public safety would receive the same percentage of cuts as other departments because, he said, they’re not of equal importance.

“They just went across the board and made the same 15 percent cut to everybody,” Yarter said. “The citizens have voted … to keep officers on the streets. It’s what people want.”

But Cherchio, who was president of a mail carriers union in Florida for 23 years, sees it differently.

“If we can’t get concessions from the unions, we will have no alternative but to lay people off,” Cherchio said. “If they consider that to be a threat, so be it. How can you convey that to someone unless you explain that to them?

“All we asked them to do was to come to the table and try to save their jobs,” Cherchio said. “Obviously, they’re not happy about it.”

Jeff Hurley, president of the city’s fire union, said he simply disagrees with Cherchio’s decision-making.

The city’s fire union hasn't reached a concession agreement with the city, but it should soon, Hurley said. The fire union has made four rounds of concessions in the past four years, he said.

Yarter’s union entered into a tentative agreement with the city Wednesday, in which it gave up cost-of-living increases and sick-day sell-back, but no base pay. In exchange, the city agreed not to lay off union members for 18 months.

Cherchio has voted along with three other North Las Vegas Council members – Anita Wood, Robert Eliason and William Robinson – on votes that pressured unions to come forward. Mayor Shari Buck has refused to vote to make any cuts to public safety, aside from approving union concessions.

Wood went as far as to say the city would become a “police state” if all other services but public safety were cut. Eliason has said city employee salaries are too high.

But Cherchio is the clear target, the union presidents said.

He isn't the only one voting for cuts, Yarter said, “but he’s the next person who’s up for re-election.”

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