Four former city of Las Vegas officials have put the city on notice that they may sue over their ousters in June.
The ex-officials — Housing Director Chris Barela, Finance Director Ann Marie Gallegos, Recreation Director Mark Loera and City Clerk CherylAnn Yara — filed their notice with the city Sept. 10.
They were among six officials dismissed in late June. The action happened in the first months of Tony Marquez’s reign as mayor.
The other dismissed officials were Fire Chief Andrew Duran and Public Works Director Carlos Ortiz. A day after the firings, city officials decided to keep Ortiz in a lower-paying projects coordinator position.
The officials’ notice to the city was addressed to, among others, Marquez and council members Diane Moore and Andrew Feldman, all of whom voted for the ousters. Not listed were Morris Madrid and Cruz Roybal, who voted against the firings.
The ousted officials’ names aren’t listed in the local phonebook, so they couldn’t be reached for comment. Their notice didn’t include the name of an attorney.
The four former officials stated in the letter that their causes of action include violation of civil rights, defamation, wrongful discharge, negligence and violation of due process.
The specific alleged violations include:
• The reorganizational meeting was not timely held.
• The recommendation for the termination by the interim city manager, Jeff Condrey, was not given in accord with the law. In fact, the manager disagreed with the terminations.
• There was improper legal notice of the terminations.
• The terminations defamed the fired employees.
• There was no “just cause” for the termination of the housing director.
• The city attorney, Carlos Quiones, failed in his duty to research the issues and give correct advice.
• The terminations were acts of retaliation against the employees for their support of other candidates or because of whistleblower activities.
The four former officials want their terminations to be declared null and void. They are asking to be reinstated immediately or made whole for their losses.
During the June 23 council meeting, Condrey made the recommendations for the firings. But when Councilman Morris Madrid questioned Condrey about the reasons, the manager wouldn’t answer directly.
Condrey said he made the decision “in consultation with the mayor ... it’s his call.
Madrid asked for Condrey’s personal opinion on the terminations — to which Condrey said it was “irrelevant.”
At the meeting, Madrid questioned the legality of revisiting business conducted at the council’s organizational meeting’s held three months before — when department heads were given temporary, 90-day appointments to their positions.
The week after the meeting, Madrid said that because the city charter-required organizational meeting had been adjourned so long before, directors would have to get a hearing if the city wanted to fire them.
The mayor said this morning that the understanding was that the officials were reappointed for 90 days.
“They are exempt and serve at will,” he said.
He said he treated all employee equally, regardless of the candidates they supported in the mayoral race.