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Council’s replacement of staff authorized by charter

There has been much discussion recently about the removal of the city manager and city attorney by a 4-1 vote of the City Council. Statements have been made about the ability of the council to make such a decision. This is certainly not the first time such replacements have been done by a council. The following wording of the city charter is from the powers section of the charter pertaining to the positions the council has the authority to appoint or remove.

1. “By a concurring vote of not less than three of its members, appoint to and/or remove from office the following City officers: (a) the City Manager; (b) the City Attorney; (c) the City Clerk; and/or (d) the Municipal Judge; subject to these provisions:

A. The appointments shall be for indefinite terms, and each such officer shall receive such compensation and other benefits as may be determined by resolution of the Council from time to time. (Add. 15, Amd. 2, 6-4-1991)”

This wording is sometimes referred to “at-will” appointments. The intent of the city charter is clear in this regard. The council has authority to appoint or remove officials serving in these positions at any time. It is the nature of appointed positions such as cabinet officials at the federal level. In this case the four council members voting for removal of the officials each stated their thoughts on why they believed a change was needed. The charter does not require any reason to make changes in these positions.

In the current situation, the city manager and city attorney decided to file a lawsuit against the city and prevent the council from considering whether to remove one or both of them and appoint replacements. That lawsuit is still pending and I am unable to discuss many of the details but what a judge did decide was that the council could indeed meet and discuss whether to remove one or both of the officials. The former City Council also replaced the city manager and city attorney after new members took their seats on the council. These changes in appointed officials are not unusual. The previous council members also included several benefits for the replacements they chose that had never before been provided.

The city charter also provides for the City Council to appoint temporary replacements while permanent replacements are considered. The editor of this paper has characterized my recommendation of an interim city attorney as having the appearance of cronyism. That characterization is simply false and misleading.

When it became clear that the City Council would consider removing the existing city attorney and possibly appoint an interim attorney, I asked people I know for suggestions of attorneys that might fill in. That is common when considering temporary replacements while the process to determine a permanent replacement is pursued. There is not a temp agency for attorneys that I am aware of that could be phoned up to provide a temp city attorney.

The temporary city attorney appointed, Brittany Walker, is not a former business partner of mine as was the case with the former mayor and city attorney. My recommendation was based on the qualifications of a person that was suggested and her willingness to take on a temporary position with no guarantee the position would be permanent. It did turn out that I had a chance meeting with Ms. Walker many years ago at our annual parade of lights Christmas event. I don’t believe that qualifies either of us as being “cronies.”

Ms. Walker has years of experience in government service at the state Legislature. Ms. Walker made the decision to attend law school and graduated from the UNLV Boyd School of Law with magna cum laude honors. She continued working with government policy issues while in law school and in private practice. As a native of Las Vegas, she has known Boulder City all her life, even choosing to be married here at Grace Community Church with a reception at the Boulder Dam Hotel.

The City Council and the community can use some fresh perspectives at this time. The process for selecting permanent appointed officials will be open and transparent.

Kiernan McManus is mayor of Boulder City. He is a native of Boulder City first elected to City Council in 2017.

The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.

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