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Taxpayers big losers in city’s legal battles

Boulder City is no stranger to lawsuits that it should have no business being involved in. In 2010, the city made the decision to sue residents who had worked to put three initiatives on the ballot. It was a long, drawn-out suit and countersuit that ultimately ended in the Nevada Supreme Court where our city, us the taxpayers, had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to those they had sued and their attorneys. We don’t know the total cost to our city, including staff time, but it may well have approached a million dollars.

Likewise, the never-ending saga of the infamous crosswalk case is another. I can’t keep up with all the back and forth but in the end the price tag will be very high. A small issue turned into one of the city’s greatest fiascoes because no one, the city or (John) Hunt, were willing to be the bigger man and just walk away (no pun intended).

This is one example where I think our city attorney gave bad advice. When the judge ruled that it was a vindictive prosecution they should have simply dropped the issue. Yes, the city would have had egg on its face, but dragging it out, even if the city wins the vindication, comes with a terrible waste of time and money.

It appears we are headed for yet another taxpayer-funded debacle by the removal of our city attorney and city manager. While both have made mistakes, the moment I saw the reasons for dismissal listed as part of the packet for the postponed Aug. 6 meeting, I knew we were headed for a lawsuit. The reasons were weak at best and it is clear to everyone that they are not the real reasons for the termination.

Was it retaliation for the city attorney’s and city manager’s involvement in the human resources investigation against the mayor? I don’t know. I am happy to let others make a ruling on that later this month.

But, it’s not hard to see from meetings and speaking with staff that this City Council has a very strained relationship with city staff. This was made abundantly clear as the fact that there is a complaint from staff that the mayor has engaged in religious discrimination, harassment, bullying and creating a hostile work environment.

There are some on the council who blame the city attorney and city manager for this strained relationship. They think if they get rid of them, their relationship with staff will improve. But firing employees that the rest of staff trust and respect is not a recipe for improving relationships. If they continue to force the termination, the council will find its ability to get things from staff diminished, along with its ability to get anything meaningful done.

I am not a lawyer and I have not reviewed the facts of any of these cases, but I know enough to know that they rarely find any misconduct. It is very hard to prove that the reason someone did something was retaliatory or was due to religious belief. But they do take a lot of time and money. In fact, my guess is that time is really what these employees are hoping for. After all, if this meeting can be postponed due to legal battles long enough we will be within six months of an election and then they may get a more favorable council.

Whether or not their stalling is successful, or whether or not their lawsuit is successful, the City Council and staff will be so caught up in this fight that it is going to waste a tremendous amount of time and taxpayers’ money, as well as hinder their ability to get anything meaningful done.

Let me be clear, I do not support the termination of these men. The city staff trust them and from my perspective both are doing a decent job. The terminations will cost a tremendous amount in either lawsuits, severance packages or both.

But I equally do not support their lawsuit against the city. If they want to terminate you, face it head on. Let the council hold its vote. You work at the will of the council. Prove your love for this city by not dragging it into an expensive lawsuit.

Today, we need the same things all the past lawsuits have needed: someone to be the bigger person. Be willing to drop the pettiness and move on. I fear neither party is willing to let go and we, the taxpayers, will be left to pay the price.

Preston G. Wright is a writer and resident of Boulder City. He loves food, politics, raising chickens and spending time with his wife and family. You can find him under Preston Wright on Facebook.

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