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Mayoral directives questioned

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By Lee Einer

Members of the city’s utilities committee are questioning some of the mayor’s new rules for advisory panels, some of which give the mayor more control.

During this week’s committee meeting, Ken Garcia, the acting city manager, started the ball rolling by handing out a list of “general rules”  signed by Las Vegas Mayor Tony Marquez and dated Oct. 14. Committee members said they hadn’t seen it before.

Among the rules were a stipulation that no subcommittees may be established without the prior approval of the mayor and a statement that action cannot be referred to other committees unless directed by the mayor.  

Utilities committee chairman and City Councilman Andy Feldman said previous rules simply required decorum and that the committee follow Robert’s Rules of Order.

“There were just basic rules,” Feldman said a day after the meeting. “None of that stuff that was passed out yesterday. I don’t know why we would need the mayor’s permission to form a subcommittee.”

Despite the mayor’s rules being dated Oct. 14, it was clear from the reactions of the committee members that the rules were a surprise to them, and Feldman confirmed that he had not seen the rules previously.

Next, Garcia passed out a revised utilities committee minutes form. The new form appeared to be identical to the old one, with the addition of requiring the signature of Shawni Muniz, the utilities department’s office manager, and the signature of Feldman attesting to the accuracy of the minutes. This also appeared to come as a surprise to the committee members.

Garcia also told the committee that he had not been able to locate completed minutes on file and that they were required to be on file with the city clerk. This appeared to have caught the committee unawares.

Commenting later, Feldman said,  “That’s the first I’ve ever heard of the requirement for signatures. That may very well have been the policy, and we were never informed of it — my assumption was that the minutes were kept on hand at the utility department. It would be nice if we were provided with that information instead of this guy Ken Garcia coming in and saying ‘we’re laying down the law here’ post facto.”

Jones later said the city manager does not normally attend utilities committee meetings and that he was unsure of why Garcia was there or what  his official role might be with respect to the utility committee.

The mayor’s rules also did not mention a requirement for minutes to be signed, nor for them to copied to the city clerk’s office.

But the committee also dropped a bomb at the meeting. Garcia was presented with a packet of 10 memorandums and agenda item requests dating as far back as August 2008, which the committee says it presented to the city manager and mayor for action but which were never added to the City Council agenda.

“We would send recommendations to the city manager,” Feldman said, “or agenda item requests because the job of the committee is to recommend these things to the director and to council, and they would go to the mayor and the city manager and never appear on the agenda.”  

Committee member Robert Jones said after the meeting that he believed the mayor had an ulterior motive in not responding to the committee’s agenda recommendations.

“I believe that the mayor has been undermining (former utilities director) George Du Four for a long, long time with the intent of getting rid of him,” Jones said.  “That’s why I asked that these things be included in the packet. I do believe that the mayor has sandbagged his own advisory committee and George Du Four since at least last July.”

Marquez said this morning that a city staffer sent a copy of the rules to members of advisory committees. He also said the minutes should be filed at the city clerk’s office, so committees’ work doesn’t go to waste.

“I am honored that there are citizens who volunteer their time and energy for the committees; their exchange and dialogue are valued,” the mayor said.

He said he was disappointed with Jones’ comments defending the “questionable actions” of Du Four.