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July 5, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Henderson police chief’s retirement adds final scandal ingredient: Money


Steve Marcus

Embattled Henderson Police Chief Jutta Chambers is shown during the Henderson State of the City address at Green Valley Ranch Resort on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. Chambers announced in a meeting with staff today that she will retire effective March 1, a city spokesman said.

Click to enlarge photo

J. Patrick Coolican

Man kicked in the head by Henderson Police officer

Video footage from a Nevada Highway Patrol dashboard camera of a Henderson Police officer kicking a man in the head during a traffic stop, Feb. 7, 2012. Warning: The footage contains material that may be offensive.

Man kicked during traffic stop speaks out

KSNV coverage of a man speaking out after being kicked by a Henderson Police officer while he was having a medical episode, Feb. 8, 2012.

The city of Henderson has done its darndest over the past week to erode the already depleted stores of public trust in government.

First, we learned the city will pay a man $257,000 because he was in diabetic shock and driving erratically when he was pulled from his car by police at gunpoint, forcibly restrained on his stomach and then kicked in the head. We also learned the officer who did the kicking, Sgt. Brett Seekatz, kept his job and his rank.

Next, as I reported last week, we learned that members of the City Council found out about the incident, which occurred in October 2010, in just the past few weeks, and in one case, a day before the meeting at which the council authorized the settlement.

At the same time, we also heard disingenuous reports from the council and other city quarters that officials were satisfied with changes made by Henderson Police Chief Jutta Chambers, which were said to have reduced police use-of-force incidents 30 percent from 2010 to 2011.

As I noted, the whole tenor of the discussion was ... move along, nothing to see here.

Then over the weekend, something changed, and suddenly City Manager Mark Calhoun “retired,” to be replaced by ultimate insider Jacob Snow, currently general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission.

Chambers, the department’s first female police chief, was then clumsily asked to resign while on vacation.

What is this scandal missing? Money.

Wednesday we learned that instead of being fired or merely retiring, Chambers will likely take a buyout offered this month to city employees as part of a cost-cutting effort, a city spokesman said. Employees accepting the buyout will receive two weeks pay for each year of service.

Chambers, who Metro Sheriff Doug Gillespie said has been an honorable and effective police leader, has been with the department for nearly 30 years.

She makes $185,326, so she’ll receive at least $206,000, plus accrued vacation and sick time. Given our depressed real estate prices, she’ll be able to buy a couple of rental properties with that golden parachute.

That’s just the beginning. I used the Public Employees Retirement System benefit calculator to estimate her annual retirement: by my calculation, roughly $130,000 per year or more, for the rest of her life. Plus a cost-of-living adjustment.

I don’t mean to single out Chambers, and more generally, public employees receive unfair criticism. Most of them work hard in thankless jobs. Many of them are well educated and could make far more money in the private sector. And most will live on fairly modest pensions nowhere near as generous as that afforded to Chambers.

Contra the unfair calumny heaped on public workers the past few years, the Great Recession wasn’t caused by cops, social workers and teachers. It was caused, to a great degree, by greedy banks and Wall Street financiers and their Washington enablers.

Still, what we’ve seen in Henderson this past week — a toxic mix of insularity, incompetence and financial profligacy — is deeply unhelpful to those of us trying to promote an active and robust government that will hopefully create a more just and prosperous society.

So here’s a modest proposal to begin restoring public trust in government: Call it the “six-figure rule.”

The maximum pension benefit should be $99,999. If that’s not enough to live comfortably, then try your hand at the private sector.

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  1. The only "pension" plan allowed by Government employees should come from a 401/403 type savings plan whereby the employee contributes a given percentage to the account at each payroll and perhaps it is matched.

    Anyone who has guaranteed employment for 30 years should have already developed a million dollar nest egg. I'm certain Jutta is a Conservative - what happened to that flag waving virtue of self reliance? Or is that for minimum wage earners only?

    They may choose to keep it entirely savings or invest in mutual funds. The government should NEVER be obligated to fund fully paid pension plan, particularly at 70% of their full time salary. That's even better then the military pension!

    How is a pension of 70% full time salary, on top of a $206,000 buy-out justified? Did the public approve by voting, or another example of a Lewinski deal: "under the table"? If the public is made to pay, they should have the say.

    If all the City employees retire at 70% full time pay, Henderson will be running out of cash in a short time. It's time to cut the taxes way back.

  2. great post SunJon

  3. The Great Recession was caused by all of us in America. The cops, social workers and teachers were just as greedy as the rest of us. We all strutted around and dreamed of how high our "portfolio" would climb, all the while ignoring the clear warning signs flashing in our faces. Blaming faceless institutions is a convenient lie.

    I think Chief Chambers is a scapegoat of a flawed system that we have allowed to mushroom for the last 20-30 years. We have elevated first responders to god-like status, and allowed their unions to insulate them from common sense accountability. This created a situation where a group of rich people or busybodies who got themselves elected to the city council decided to be offended by a negoiated resolution to a first responder misdeed. They can't punish the offender at the level they want because the union contract they approved a couple years ago says they can't. But, they can take their righteous indignation out on the non-union administrators, because they don't have the protections available to the union employees. To make themselves feel better, the council gives the administrators a cushy deal to "retire" and the city the council was elected to lead winds up paying two administrators over a million dollars each not to work, because they probably would not have retired for 10 more years had this not happened.
    Better yet, the short tempered cop with the big flashlight is still on the job, working dilligently toward his retirement, which will not be dissected and lambasted by a newspaper columnist for being too generous and causing the destruction of our grandchildren's future.

    Another example of how we are all responsible for The Great Recession.

  4. Mr. Becker,

    You do pay for it and you do have a say. You vote every few years for a person to speak for you in government. You have the right to meet with that elected official, go to city meetings.

    Don't hate on her because she gets what the city agreed and offered her through the UNION contracts. She spent 30 years doing her job for an agreed on contract and that contract was approved by YOU.(The person you voted for)

    How many times have you met with the Mayor of Henderson to voice your concerns? You have that right. I doubt that the Mayor of Henderson reads the comments in the Sun. ;-)

  5. I was going to state my opinion on this, but everything I had to say was already voiced by vegaslee. I too don't think you should hate on her for taking what was agreed upon. Just because we think it is extreme doesn't mean she should not get it. No one works for a company (in this case the Henderson police) for 30 years if they are doing a bad job.

    Until this incident came to light, I had never even heard of her, either positive or negative. I really think she is the scapegoat for this whole sordid affair. And, as far as as the discipline against the offending officer, I'm sure we can thank the police union for tying her hands.

  6. And that's the problem cpb.

  7. "What is this scandal missing? Money."

    Coolican -- that, as the late, great Frank Zappa said once, is "the crux of the biscuit." Glad you stayed on this one. The story needed to be told, and retold, until the people who should be paying attention do so.

  8. Good work, Coolican.

  9. How about they fire the Sergeant video taped kicking the victim in the jibs five times???? I respect police officers; I don't respect thugs who abuse their office. The police swarmed this guy like he was public enemy number one. The chief was the only logical scapegoat for the department's over reaction in a benign situation.

  10. To my fellow bloggers;
    The Chief of Police of Henderson was not asked to step down because of the actions of an Officer kicking somebody in the face. She was asked to step down because she failed to immediately disclose and tell the truth of what happened over a year ago with the head and face kicking incident. An Omission is a lie, a Half Truth is a whole lie. Politicians and appointed leaders should never lie to the public. Just an old veteran cop reflecting,

    Gordon Martines

  11. Gordon: If politicians and elected officials did not lie to, and steal from, the public, how would we then be able to tell them apart from regular folks?

  12. To my fellow bloggers;
    @DrJCA1....The only regular person that I could positively tell the difference from a politician would be the person in the mirror. Honor is a gift you give to yourself. Just an old veteran cop reflecting,

    Gordon Martines

  13. The only ingredient I don't see here is the "disability factor". Here in California it is very common for high officials in law enforcement and fire departments to suddenly retire due to a scandal, thus ending the investigations. Then they put in a "disability" claim which means a higher amount of annual or monthly retirement pay and also the benefit of a large amount of that being tax free. This scam has been going on for years and they are bankrupting the system. If someone is truly injured, they deserve the additional benefit, but too many are abusing it.
    I agree with the "six figure rule" proposal. Especially since a large number of the retirees sign on as a "consultant" to whatever agency after retirement, raking in tens of thousands (or more) in additional money for very few hours of their time.

  14. When are we going to stop letting abusive police officers get away with the assault, battery and killing of civilians - WHEN?

    Do we need a new acronym? POOOC = Police Officer Out Of Control how's that? Seriously, I've now become more afraid of these abusive power trippers (and I know they are in the minority) - but, it only takes ONE to kill you!

    What ever happened to firing people for NOT doing their job honorably - and denying them benefits?

    Why are any of these Police Officers that attacked this innocent, unarmed civilian still on the job and being paid anything?

    Then, there's the questions about the Police Officers present that didn't directly do anything except watch their peers unnecessarily being brutal?

    What about every "spokes-person" that refused to even provide a comment to News 3? What? That in itself is grounds for termination for "professional" "public" "servants" that don't think they should have to answer to any of us - including the press!

    With regards to the generous retirement she's going to get only about 5 to 6 times what a professional soldier would get - but, hey, who's counting? (*SARCASM*)

    KUDOS to Coolican, again!