UPDATE: The special council meeting scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. has been canceled.
Boulder City’s already tight budget could take another hit if the city attorney and city manager are fired as severance packages for the two total nearly half a million dollars.
Mayor Kiernan McManus called for a special council meeting at 6 tonight, Aug. 6, where Councilwoman Tracy Folda is asking to consider “terminating” the employment contracts for City Attorney Steve Morris and City Manager Al Noyola. District Court Judge Jim Crockett, however, issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday, Aug. 5, that prohibits any action on these agenda items until after a hearing, scheduled for Aug. 20 in Nevada’s Eighth District Court.
According to the agenda packet, Folda wants to discuss Morris allegedly providing misleading information to one or more of the council members about obtaining special counsel and applying Nevada Revised Statute 281 to his role as a public official.
For Noyola, Folda wants to discuss his alleged actions taken after the hiring a special counsel was not approved by council and his use of emergency power during a public health crisis for a matter at the Boulder City Municipal Airport about fuel delivery, transport and storage.
Due to the restraining order, the special meeting is now in question.
“The judge’s order states, ‘Plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable harm, should The City be permitted to proceed with hearing items 1-4 on the August 6, 2020, Special Meeting Agenda – which Special Meeting and Special Meeting Agenda violate Nevada’s Open Meeting Law, NRS ch. 241,’” said Communications Director Lisa LaPlante. “Therefore, holding the special meeting would be a violation of NRS 241.”
Morris and Noyola are at-will employees according to their contracts and can be fired by “council at any time, with or without cause, for any reason or no reason” as long as it’s not within six months before or after a council election.
If fired, Morris and Noyola have severance packages outlined in their contracts.
“Both Steve Morris and Al Noyola have been employed beyond 24 months,” said Communications Director Lisa LaPlante. “According to their contracts, they would receive nine months severance … . The total is nearly $500,000.”
LaPlante said Noyola’s payout would total $234,613.97, with $48,272.59 coming from the city’s compensated absences fund. The remaining $186,341.38 would come from the general fund.
Morris’ payout would be $259,458.15, with $71,593.89 out of the compensated absences fund and $187,864.26 from the general fund.
“The combined payouts according to the contracts with the city will be a total of $494,072.12. Of which, $119,866.48 could be paid out of the compensated absences special revenue fund,” LaPlante said. “The remaining $374,205.64 would be paid out of the general fund, general government function.”
In May, Finance Director Diane Pelletier said she was expecting a 40 percent drop in all the city’s revenue streams except the solar leases for the 2021 fiscal year, representing approximately $9 million in lost revenue for the general fund. The expected loss is due to less tax revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The final $32.8 million budget approved by council was $2.3 million less than the one presented before the pandemic. To balance it, approximately $6.5 million from the previous fiscal years’ general fund went to the city’s operating fund and not into reserves.
LaPlante said the payouts would “absolutely have an adverse impact on the city’s general fund.”
“These amounts were not budgeted and all general fund budgets have already been drastically cut due to the current state of emergency,” she said.
The appointments of an interim city attorney and interim city manager are also on the agenda for tonight’s meeting, but there are no candidates listed for either position.
According to the agenda, items 2 and 4 are for possible action to appoint people to the positions if Morris’ and Noyola’s employment contracts are terminated. Additionally, no salary for either position is listed. Rather it says that the past practice was to approve a salary similar to the existing one, but city staff will determine the current one.
On Sept. 26, 2017, council voted to hire Morris 3-2. McManus, then a council member, and the late Councilman Warren Harhay voted against the offer.
During that meeting, McManus said that he thought the city attorney’s office needed a fresh perspective. His first and second choices for the position were Gordon Goolsby and Christi Kindel, respectively. At the time, Goolsby was the senior deputy attorney general for the Nevada’s attorney general’s office, and Kindel was deputy district attorney for Nye County.
McManus also voted against Morris’ employment contract at the Feb. 27, 2018, council meeting.
Noyola was offered the city manager position with the unanimous approval Jan. 23, 2018, by the council members at that time. However, McManus voted against his contract Feb. 27, 2018.
He said he could not support the contract without defining what a reasonable time was for Noyola to move to Boulder City. He had requested that Noyola establish residency within six months of being hired.
Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at email@example.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.