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City Hall’s actions questionable

One of William Shakespeare’s most recognizable lines comes from “Hamlet.” After spotting the ghost of the dead king, an officer of the palace guard remarks, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

There haven’t been any ghost sightings in Boulder City, but there definitely seems to be something rotten going on in our community — especially in City Hall.

This week our top two stories are about misdeeds of city officials — one who knowingly violated the city’s code of ethics and others who seem to be violating city code unknowingly.

Wednesday morning, the Nevada Commission on Ethics approved an agreement in which city Administrative Officer Bryce Boldt admits he violated state law by using government property for his personal and financial gain and did not adequately avoid any conflicts of interest between his public duties and private life. The violation stems from his use of the city’s record storage facility as a place to sleep from July 2016 to February 2017 after selling his home in Las Vegas and moving his family to Scottsdale, Arizona.

The situation came to light after an employee approached former Councilman Cam Walker and told him what was going on.

Walker immediately met with former City Manager David Fraser, who claimed not to have any knowledge of what was happening, but eventually suspended Boldt for two days without pay for the offense.

We looked at the evidence submitted by a local resident to the Nevada Commission on Ethics that included a log of his comings and goings in the records building.

Based on his pattern of coming in 30 to 90 minutes late every Monday, being consistently early on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as leaving early on Thursdays, we can’t help but wonder why Boldt was allowed to continue these actions for so long. Or how Fraser didn’t notice, especially since Boldt’s position as administrative officer was created in February 2016 specifically to handle special assignments and duties from the city manager.

It would seem to us that someone also should have noticed some type of bed in the records storage building.

The other issue with city management stems from the appointment of Steve Morris as acting city attorney.

By all accounts, Morris is a very nice man. In our dealings with him so far, he has been professional and accommodating. Personally, we have nothing against him.

We do, however, have a number of issues with how the city is handling hiring him, first as acting city attorney and then appointing him to the position permanently. There seem to have been many missteps along this path.

Morris was appointed to the position in June, and now, 6½ months later, he still is working under the provisions of agreement he signed in October 2012 to serve as an independent contractor and a resolution to hire him as assistant city attorney.

City code states that any person appointed to an acting position “shall be paid a salary as established by resolution of the City Council.”

Where is that resolution? One was supposed to come before the council on July 11, but it was removed from the agenda and has yet to reappear.

Instead, Morris is working a minimum of 15 hours above the five approved in his original contract and charging the city at his billable rate of $325 an hour. This means he is earning at least $4,875 at week over and above the $769 a week he is earning for the five hours a week at $40,000 a year agreed to in his original contract.

Compare this with the $2,457 a week that former City Attorney Dave Olsen was earning for full-time work.

While we understand the reasoning behind the lack of negotiations for Morris to take over the position permanently, as the City Council voted to do in September, we have concerns with the negotiation process as a whole.

In our December article about Morris’ contract being in limbo, Mayor Rod Woodbury stated that a third party has been hired to handle negotiations and that when that consultant and Morris are done negotiating, the contact will be presented to council.

It’s another action by the council that seems at odds with traditional hiring practices. In most cases, while there is some room for negotiations, it’s usually the employer — not the prospective employee — who sets the terms for the job.

This raises a couple of big questions: Who is responsible for ensuring our city leaders are following city code, and what type of penalties exist for these types of violations?

Perhaps a ghost has the answers.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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