Friday, January 09, 2004

Delay of game

The City Council decides to punt the public employees issue, delaying its vote until Attorney General Brian Sandoval rules on the constitutionality of dual service. (The decision is expected by the end of the month.) During the council debate, Lynette Boggs McDonald reiterated the principal reason city employees can't also be lawmakers: The state constitution forbids it. City attorney Brad Jerbic all-but-ratified her view, which may have persuaded Mayor Oscar Goodman to vote the right way. (Goodman also noted that whatever Sandoval decides [IMHO, Sandoval -- establishment to the core -- won't find anything wrong with double-dipping] would merely interpret state law and could easily be overruled in court.)

Meantime, council members Janet Moncrief, Michael Mack, and Lawrence Weekly -- with collective IQs perhaps reaching the triple digits -- remained oblivious to any potential conflict with the state's governing document ... notwithstanding the fact that Boggs McDonald reminded her colleagues they had taken an oath to defend it. Members Gary Reese and Larry Brown seemed uneasy with the prospect that their personal views (which would continue to allow city workers to sit in the Legislature) might not be legally permissible as a matter of policy. So odds are, they'll defer to Sandoval's opinion.

Perhaps acknowledging the, shall we say, intellectual shortcomings of a few of her colleagues, Boggs McDonald issued several other objections to continuing dual service: It's a management nightmare and it may jeopardize federal funds to the city. On the first point, she noted that city workers who are also lawmakers don't stop being influential people when the Legislature is out of session. The Legislature meets on an interim basis nearly full-time, anyway, dealing with budget and policy matters outside the regular, 120-day, every-other-year cycle. And every lawmaker/bureaucrat wields full-time power over his full-time city bosses. Dual service blurs the distinction between manager and subordinate, unless, of course, you have a no-show job like that held by Wendell Williams. On the funding front, Boggs McDonald pointed out that any city worker who's a lawmaker could well run afoul of the federal Hatch Act (a problem now confronting Assembly Speaker/Henderson cop Richard Perkins). More than 10% of Las Vegas' general fund budget is comprised of federal money. Is the city willing to risk losing that funding just to let some of its employees serve as informal lobbyists in Carson City?

Good points, all, but they may have fallen on deaf ears (or been too sophisticated for the intended audience). Had the council voted Wednesday, my guess is the motion to bar dual service would have failed, 5-2. If Sandoval gives public employees a pass, it'll fail 6-1. If hell freezes over and he actually enforces the constitution, the motion might squeak by, 4-3. Stay tuned.

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