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COLUMN: A soap opera for Las Vegas

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By David Giuliani

Who around here needs to watch soap operas? Especially these last few months. Just watch what’s going on at City Hall. Nobody is suffering amnesia, as they typically do in soaps. But our community has plenty of other forms of drama — fights between former friends, lost jobs, chaos and lawyers.

The latest chapter in this saga started a week and a half ago when Mayor Tony Marquez put Utilities Director George Du Four on unpaid leave. In response, Du Four told the Optic about a meeting that he had with the mayor in December in which Marquez grilled him for two hours about his relationship with an influential local developer who has locked horns with the mayor.

Andrew Feldman and Diane Mooes has been made since Marquez took the helm last March.

The mayor returned fire by saying the two had also been guilty of micromanagement.

The quiet ones in this struggle are the two council members who have traditionally opposed Marquez: Morris Madrid and Cruz Roybal.

Marquez’s election as mayor last year was probably Roybal’s worst nightmare come true. He said openly that he didn’t trust Marquez. But the two have warmed up in recent months. They even shake hands these days.

As for Madrid, he’s been vocal in his opposition to certain Marquez actions, but he does so with tact. He’s not the kind of guy to get in public angry fits.

Like the mayor, Madrid also doesn’t think Du Four’s doing a good job, so it’s likely he may vote on Wednesday to back Marquez’s decision. Roybal could as well. But then again, Roybal may prefer seeing an openly defiant Du Four serving under the mayor’s command.

To add to the drama, the aforementioned developer, Carlos Gallegos, hired Sam Bregman to write a letter to the mayor warning him to stop making defamatory statements about Gallegos. As far as lawyers go, you don’t get more high-powered than Bregman, who has represented his share of well-known clients. Simply hiring Bregman shows that Gallegos is willing to fight hard.

This whole situation has got the town talking, and City Hall is suffering from instability yet again.

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Of course, chaos is nothing new to City Hall. Right now, the city is looking for a new city manager, but it may have a tough time in its search. The last manager, Sharon Caballero, who left suddenly after a little more than five months on the job in December, made $95,000 a year; her predecessor, John Avila, pulled in $75,000.

The city will probably have to increase the pay for its city manager if it wants to get a highly qualified candidate. The city’s recent and historic instability will turn off many candidates.

Since City Manager Les Montoya was shown the door in 1998, the city has had six city managers, and that’s not including the many interim managers who have served months at a time. The managers were Tom Clayton, Jack Maes, Roberto Piñeda, Morris Madrid, John Avila and Caballero. Most were fired or pressured out.

In 2005, not one local person applied when the manager’s position opened up. Very few applied earlier this year.

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I’ve got a way in which the city can save on attorney costs. It turns out that whenever you turn in a public records request, it has to be approved by the attorney. Why? Most city documents are public, with the big exceptions related to specific personnel and litigation.

For instance, requests for financial documents are all public — period. So why do you need the attorney’s signoff? Seems like the city could save some money and be a little more open in the process.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.