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July 28, 2016

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ANSWERS: CITY COUNCIL:

Councilman criticized for extracurricular activities during public meetings

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Sam Morris

Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony has come under criticism for his behavior in recent public meetings.

It’s difficult for anyone to stay awake during government meetings. But the unwritten promise by those who run for office is that if they get elected, they will pay attention.

After the city’s Recommending Committee last week altered a proposal dealing with the distance between food trucks and restaurants, several people from the audience spoke bitterly about what some felt was rude treatment by committee members.

First of all, what’s the Recommending Committee?

The three-person committee reviews and sometimes changes bills before the entire City Council sees them. It consists of Councilmen Stavros Anthony, Ricki Barlow and Bob Coffin.

And they were hearing something about the food truck proposal?

Yes. Mayor Carolyn Goodman has proposed requiring food trucks to go through more traditional licensing procedures, while restricting where they can park to no less than 150 feet from a mortar-and-bricks restaurant. Restaurateurs said that is too close. They wanted it to be 800 feet. Several of those restaurant owners spoke at the committee meeting Tuesday morning.

What was the rude behavior?

During emotional testimony by Maria Galvino, who choked up talking about the damage food trucks could do to her Mamita’s Mexican restaurant, 611 Fremont St., councilman Anthony laughed and talked to Barlow as Galvino spoke. The meetings are conducted in a smallish room in the City Clerk’s Office, so Anthony sat just 10-15 feet away from and directly facing Galvino.

Numerous times, another person said, Anthony talked loudly to Barlow during public testimony.

Did anyone complain?

As they told us, they wouldn’t dare out of fear of retribution.

“You just have to take it,” one person said, noting that Barlow shushed members of the public when it was the councilmen’s turn to talk.

Criticism of Anthony didn’t stop Tuesday. At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, during public comment, one audience member refused to speak until Anthony stopped talking to others and listened.

Later, Goodman asked Anthony to make a motion to accept a party-house report. He was busy with his phone; onlookers said it looked like he was texting.

“Are you playing a game?” Goodman asked jokingly. Anthony stayed focused on his phone, not looking up, while everyone waited. Then he made the motion.

• • •

While the City Council gave a glowing review to City Manager Betsy Fretwell on Wednesday, Councilman Steve Ross lamented that Fretwell’s compensation wasn’t in the same ballpark as that of other local city or county managers.

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Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell says the local economy likely hasn't hit bottom, but she thinks it will begin to turn around this year.

Is that true?

Not really. County Manager Don Burnette in fiscal 2011 earned total compensation of about $306,000 with a base pay about $199,000. Fretwell’s compensation was about $300,000, with a base pay of some $179,000. Burnette oversees an agency with many thousands more employees than Las Vegas. The city employs 2,375 people; Burnette oversees roughly 11,000 employees, including those at University Medical Center.

Why did Ross say that, then?

After his comment, council members promised to improve Fretwell’s compensation when the economy improves. Councilman Bob Coffin said he was “not proud of the fact that we are not paying you as much as you are worth.”

“We will compensate you at the right time,” Goodman added.

What should Fretwell earn?

Councilman Anthony said the city investigated and determined the minimum base pay for someone in her position is $175,311 with a max of $249,819.

Well, did they give her anything extra after that nice review?

Fretwell was awarded an extra 40 hours of vacation time and will be able to become part of the city’s developing gain-sharing program, which is akin to profit-sharing in the private sector.

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