Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 | 2 a.m.
The recall effort against North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck, which some citizens say is partly based on her perceived favor of police and fire unions over constituents, wouldn’t be the first time North Las Vegans have attempted to oust a mayor because of issues surrounding public safety unions.
The last successful recall of a North Las Vegas mayor was in 1976, a year much like 2011.
According to archived articles from the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, in December 1975 the North Las Vegas City Council voted to lay off 23 city employees, including 10 police officers, to meet an expected budget deficit.
The police union responded by placing signs around the city saying the force was “dangerously undermanned,” which prompted citizens to protest the public safety layoffs. Earlier this year, when the city council proposed to lay off public safety workers, police put up signs across the city that read, “We can no longer guarantee your safety.” Many residents voiced concerns over the potential uptick in crime that would follow.
The decision to lay off police officers in 1975 led to a recall effort in February 1976 against then-Mayor Bud Cleland and two councilmen. With 1,593 signatures needed to recall each elected official, the “Citizens Action Committee” filed petitions that included more than 2,400 signatures each for Mayor Cleland and the two council members.
A recall election took place that October and Ray Daines, a municipal court judge nominated by the Citizens Action Committee, won the race for mayor with more than 66 percent of the vote. The two incumbent councilmen also lost.
Cleland owned land in the city and continued developing homes as a building contractor. He died in 2002 at age 81.
The current North Las Vegas recall effort is backed by residents who claim Buck’s support of police and fire unions has caused the city to fail financially. Although the group said it doesn’t have a candidate in mind to oppose Buck, who is halfway into her first four-year term, they say their main goal is to get her out of office.
According to recallbuck.com, the group accuses the mayor of wasting tax dollars on renovations to her office even though she would get a different office later this year when she moved to the new city hall. City spokeswoman Juliet Casey confirmed the mayor’s office had undergone over $3,000 in renovations, including a paint job and new columns, but said the office had not been painted in more than a decade.
The old building won’t be mothballed; it’s possible the police department will be among groups to move in.
Buck’s vote to shut down the city’s two recreational centers is at the top of their list as well. The mayor has said she had no choice but to close the city’s remaining budget gap by voting to shutter the centers and had faith that police unions would come to an agreement with the city before the centers would close their doors.
The North Las Vegas police and supervisors associations have since given concessions to keep the recreation centers open through July.
North Las Vegas resident Bob Mersereau, one of the three citizens who filed a petition of intent to recall the mayor, said decisions Buck made as a councilwoman tied the hands of the current council, adding that the city has been filled with “endemic corruption” during her time in office.
“There have been uncalled for provisions to extend contracts for police and fire,” Mersereau said. “You don’t extend a contract when you know the people on the new council aren’t going to approve it unless you’re paying back somebody.”
Earlier this month Buck said that although the citizens have a right to pursue a recall, she did not understand the reasons behind it.
“Their reasons are a little bit ridiculous to me,” she said. “It’s interesting to see other mayors around the country who are being recalled for having laid off police and firefighters. My No. 1 priority is to keep our citizens safe, so yes, I’ll keep police and firefighters, as many as we can, as long as we can.”
To recall Buck, the petition must be signed by 2,466 registered North Las Vegas voters who cast a ballot in the 2009 mayoral race. The group has until December to gather signatures.