Boulder City and City Council now have legal representation for a lawsuit brought against them by two staff members, and it is not through POOL/PACT.
At Tuesday’s, Aug. 11, City Council meeting, Mayor Kiernan McManus recommended hiring Bailey Kennedy, a Las Vegas law firm, to represent them in the case.
“Clearly this is a very important issue,” he said. “We have a lawsuit filed against us by the city manager and city attorney. POOL/PACT, who is the insurance provider for the city … advised that they would not provide coverage or a law firm to represent the city. … I believe it’s essential that the city and City Council get legal advice … in an independent fashion.”
City Attorney Steve Morris and City Manager Al Noyola filed a complaint Aug. 3 in Nevada’s Eighth District Court, alleging a special meeting scheduled for Aug. 6 to discuss terminating their employment contracts was because they substantiated a series of allegations against McManus, who has been accused by various city employees of “religious discrimination, harassment, bullying and creating a hostile work environment.”
Judge Jim Crockett issued a temporary restraining order against the city and council that prohibits them from discussing or taking any action with Morris’ and Noyola’s employment contracts until after a hearing Sept. 17.
The city usually uses its POOL/PACT liability insurance coverage to help with some legal matters, such as civil rights actions and tort claims against the city and/or its employees.
“POOL/PACT has denied coverage in this matter because the relief sought in the complaint is for declaratory/equitable/injunctive relief,” said Lauren Oliver, an attorney with the city attorney’s office.
McManus said his personal attorney told him about the complaint being filed and said it “looked like there would be a need for a defense” since it came from the city attorney and city manager.
“At that time he asked me if I would like him to contact firms that might be able to handle this type of litigation. … He reached out and among the firms he contacted was Mr. (Dennis) Kennedy’s firm,” he said.
Kennedy, a partner with Bailey Kennedy was at Tuesday’s meeting and said the contract provided in the agenda packet was his firm’s standard agreement. According to it, he is the partner in charge of the matter and his hourly rate is $550. Attorney Joshua P. Gilmore is another partner assigned to the case and his hourly rate is also $550.
Additionally, Andrea M. Champion, an associate with the firm, will be working on the case, and her hourly rate is $400.
“We will allocate and assign work in a manner in which we believe to be most efficient,” Kennedy wrote in the agreement.
The firm may also use contract attorneys and legal assistants, which will incur an additional cost. Bailey Kennedy’s current rates for contract attorneys range from $260 to $1,000 an hour, and the rate for legal assistants is $200.
Kennedy did not give an estimate what the city’s total cost for this case could be.
Council members consulted
“I do echo your belief that this is absolutely in the best interest of the city,” said Councilman James Howard Adams. “We need to be able to defend ourselves in this matter.”
“At my age, I’d like to be defended,” added Councilwoman Judy Hoskins.
Morris had recused himself during the discussion of this item, and had Gary Booker, another attorney with the city, sit in for him.
McManus asked him what he thought of the agreement provided by Bailey Kennedy.
Booker said he had not seen it and even if he had he “wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
“My practice of law is very narrowly constricted,” he said. “I’ve been one kind of prosecutor or another for about 35 to 36 years. … Me looking at that retainer agreement is not going to do you any good. It’s beyond the scope of my practice.”
Booker said he was there “to facilitate so they could have a meeting.”
McManus said he contacted the council members individually after the complaint was filed, asking them to contact him about an urgent matter. They ultimately scheduled a teleconference with the law firm to discuss the situation.
“Nevada’s open meeting law allows council to meet to receive legal advice,” he said. “It’s not restricted to anyone who is employed or under contract by the city.”
McManus said the only council member who did not contact him about that matter or meeting was Claudia Bridges.
After Tuesday’s meeting she said she “was unable to find any evidence of receiving a request for her input.”
Prior to the discussion, Bridges said she had a “conflict of interest” with the complaint referenced in the agenda item and would abstain from the discussion and vote.
“I don’t feel comfortable discussing it at this time because of the nature of the situation,” she said after the meeting.
Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.