Las Vegas Sun

January 21, 2018

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Health District director’s resignation a ‘positive step,’ commissioner says


Steve Marcus

Lawrence Sands, chief health officer for the Southern Nevada Health District, speaks during a Nurse-Family Partnership Graduation at the Health District Tuesday, August 9, 2011.

Updated Thursday, June 14, 2012 | 6:19 p.m.

A county commissioner who came to loggerheads with Dr. Lawrence Sands, chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, called news of Sands' resignation “a positive step for the county.”

“We had just reached an impasse on so many issues,” said Commissioner Steve Sisolak. “This allows us to heal some wounds.”

Sands became the district’s chief in March 2007. His resignation is to be considered at the district’s board meeting June 21.

"I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to serve the district as the chief health officer and look forward to continuing to make a difference in the community in a future role," Sands wrote in a release.

Sands’ tenure, however, was marked by some tribulations the past few years. In a move that angered county elected officials, who were trying to eke concessions out of public employees unions, the Health District board didn't attempt to get any concessions from its employees, many of whom received 5.5 percent wage increases in 2010..

Last summer the Health District sued Clark County, contending it had the legal right to own real estate. The county contends that it does not. Sands seemed to force the issue, however, in April when he unilaterally closed the district’s main building downtown on Shadow Lane, citing structural concerns.

Now many of the services once provided in that building are scattered in offices around the county.

In May during a discussion over its budget, Sands admonished commissioners for not contacting him before the county considered cutting a budget that the Health District board had already approved.

“I’m feeling a sense of arrogance, that you just don’t want to cooperate,” Sisolak replied. “Before you come back, you and I better talk because this is nothing compared to what it will be next time.”

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly had said happenings in the Health District “appear all over the place and crazy.”

Asked what went wrong between Sands and county officials, Sisolak replied, “where do you want me to start?”

“He gave raises when we were giving everybody cuts,” he added. “Then we had the lawsuit. Then closing the building and sending people all over the place.”

Sisolak gave Sands credit, though, for having to deal with a board that has the unusual makeup of half laypeople and half elected officials.

“That makes it hard, because the unelected people don’t have to answer to voters,” Sisolak said. “It also makes it hard because who did he really have to answer to?”

Next year, state Sen. David Parks said he would introduce legislation to change the makeup of the Health District board to all elected officials.

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