Thursday, November 27, 2003

Wha' happen?

Not a lot, actually, in Tuesday's City Council meeting on the Wendell Williams fiasco. City Manager Doug Selby kept his job, which means that that Williams' city position is probably safe now as well, since Selby devised Williams' "last chance" deal. (The deal clearly upset Mayor Oscar Goodman, but not enough for him to recommend that Selby get the ax.) Goodman did an OK job as the prosecuting attorney, if you will, interrogating Williams, the city auditor and other employees who reviewed Williams' time records. Goodman eventually conceded that, since the council lacked the authority to compel sworn testimony from people who don't work for the city, and several of the key players in this melodrama aren't on the city payroll, the council couldn't determine who was telling the truth.

Did Williams falsify time records in violation of city policy? Or were his time cards filled out for him by others, as he claimed Tuesday ... and was there no policy governing time worked by city employees who also sit in the Legislature? Did the city give Williams a raise and a promotion after he resurrected a city annexation bill in the 2003 Legislature, as he claims? Or did he have nothing to do with the bill and is using this story to blackmail current and former city workers into remaining silent regarding his many indiscretions -- including running up thousands of dollars of personal calls on a city cell phone, taking sick leave from his city job while he was running legislative committee meetings, not showing up for an $86,000 a year no-show job, etc.?

Goodman decided to turn the entire matter over to the local DA and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, where people who can compel testimony might be able to get to the bottom of this.

While Goodman recommended that the city require any future employees who serve in the Legislature to take unpaid leave and receive no benefits while the Legislature is in session, Councilwoman Lynette Boggs McDonald receives the Profile in Courage award for urging the city to obey the Nevada Constitution and bar city employees from legislative service altogether. (She wasn't channeling me, but it sure seemed that way.) In a passionate, meticulously argued presentation, Boggs McDonald explained the separation of powers problems that arise from dual service, and also noted the problem such employees cause for their superiors in City Hall. One minute these employees are on the city organization chart, just like every other public worker; the next, they're the boss, with the power to set budgets, establish regulations, and in effect boss everyone else around. (She brought up the home rule issue as well, noting that if the council wanted to shift Las Vegas' form of government from its current manager-council to a strong mayor system, it would need the approval of the Legislature first.)

Unfortunately, she was trying to convince a council whose collective IQ (except for Goodman, who's a very bright guy) may reach triple digits. The other members who spoke issued platitudes about how "this is America" and "everyone has the right to run for office." So while Lynette may have cheered a few lonely souls, her sensible (and legal) alternative has no chance of adoption.

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