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City manager, attorney strike gold in Boulder City

Finally, after months of waiting, interviews and negotiations, the city has approved employment agreements for a new city manager and new city attorney. We look forward to working with Al Noyola and Steve Morris and hope they do great things for our community.

Yet, even though agreements have been completed and the city appears to be moving forward, it needs to take a step back and ponder some of the mistakes it made along the way with the goal of avoiding them in the future.

Kudos to Councilman Kiernan McManus for not voting to approve either agreement because there were clauses he couldn’t support and he didn’t believe they were in the city’s best interest.

We’re not so sure they are either. Both contracts offer provisions that seem to favor the new employees. Good for them, but not so good for the citizens of Boulder City who will bear the brunt of these literal and figurative costs.

Let’s start with their generous salaries. Noyola will receive $168,500 plus benefits. Morris will receive $170,000 plus benefits. According to Transparent Nevada, both are significantly higher than cities of comparable size, but in line for other cities in the Las Vegas area.

But they are also a big jump from their predecessors. In 2016, former City Manager David Fraser’s base salary was $130,742 and former City Attorney Dave Olsen’s base salary was $127,717.

In addition, they were given $150 monthly allowances for a cellphone and $500 a month for a car.

Of course, their benefits also include contributions to their retirement plans, health and life insurance, and vacation and sick leave.

Noyola starts with two weeks of vacation and two weeks of sick leave on the books. Morris received an even better vacation package — four weeks to start — plus another two weeks of sick leave.

These are standard features in employment contracts. But there are also a few provisions that give us cause for concern.

Both agreements prohibit terminating employment six months before or after a City Council election. Since Council members serve for four years each term, and those terms are divided so that there are at least two seasoned veterans sitting at any given time, this severely restricts the period of time when either of those employees can be terminated.

Morris’s agreement also has a troublesome provision: a clause that allows him to have employment outside of his full-time position with the city. Having one full-time job is difficult enough. We can’t imagine how difficult it would be to juggle additional duties, especially knowing that serving as city attorney is a very time consuming job. It’s so time consuming that the previous city attorney said he was never able to leave the office long enough to use all of his allotted vacation each year.

Personally, we have nothing against our new city attorney. In all of our dealings with him as acting city attorney, he has been nothing but professional. His responses to our questions always come in a timely manner, which is especially appreciated by those of us always facing a deadline.

Perhaps it is these qualities why City Council members were so generous in the terms of employment.

Still, we can’t help but wonder if the City Council had any legal counsel working on its behalf.

If we ever get the opportunity to negotiate an employment contract, we certainly want to have the folks that wrote these on our side. Not only did the new city employees receive a proverbial golden parachute, they got an entire golden outfit complete with jumpsuit, goggles and superhero cape.

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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