Whiplash – Special Council Meeting Scheduled and Then Cancelled

City Hall Vacancy Boulder City, Nevada

We’ve waited a few days to cover this, as it was a rapidly evolving situation that changed again last night. So, let’s try to first round up the basics on a play-by-play for you:

  • On July 30th, a City Council Special Agenda Meeting was scheduled for today, Thursday, August 6th at 6pm. To be discussed were the employment contracts and performance of City Manager Al Noyola and City Attorney Steve Morris. Both were to be in front of Council discussing matters of alleged misconduct, professional competence, and personal character. Also on the agenda for that meeting was the potential of terminating both of their Employment Agreements and the appointment of acting replacements for their job roles.
  • On Tuesday, August 4th the City Manager and City Attorney filed a formal complaint against the City at the Eighth District Court of Nevada. They claim that their constitutional rights had been violated.
  • Yesterday afternoon, a Judge ruled in their favor, saying that the meeting could not be held until a formal hearing was had, and the aforementioned meeting for this evening, August 6th, was then cancelled as of 5:50 pm.

Thus, many of us are feeling this crazy sense of uncertainty as to what lies ahead.

Also, as of last night, is a change to the Agenda for the regularly scheduled City Council meeting on August 11th. This new item has been added:

23. For possible action: The retention of the law firm of Bailey Kennedy to render legal services to the City (and City Council) in connection with the litigation entitled Noyola, et al. v. City of Boulder City, Case No. A-20-818973-C, pending in the District Court, Clark County, Nevada (as requested by Mayor McManus)

We reached out to Mayor McManus for information, and he tells us, “As noted, the item is for possible action…Members of the public will also be provided an opportunity to provide their input during the initial public comment period. The details of the costs and conditions of such representation will be included in the agenda packet materials when it is published.”

So quite literally, as the phrase goes – now it seems everyone on both sides of the issue has or will, ‘lawyer up’.

“Karma (informal):  destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.” Or as has been often stated, for every action put forth into the universe, there is an automatic reaction.

There are a number of issues to examine and questions that I’m personally wondering about now:

Regime Change

All five of our existing City Council members are, or were members of, or endorsed by a particular group in town, well known as the Boulder City Community Alliance (BCCA). This was a grass roots movement of citizens who did not like the direction that the city was going under the prior Council, and replaced them with their own people. With that, comes the assumption that certain things would happen. It’s a common enough phenomenon, called ‘regime change’. It happens in Washington DC as political parties change power, and in states and local communities all over the US. That’s fine, and it is part of being a representative democracy – the winning majority decides how things will be run and by whom.

Both the City Manager and City Attorney positions are ‘at will’. They serve at the pleasure of our Mayor and City Council. The rules are that they can simply be dismissed without any cause whatsoever, after 6 months AFTER an election or not sooner than 6 months BEFORE an upcoming election. Meaning that after the last election come early January (2020), the City Council could have just said, ‘Thanks for your service!’ and sent them packing. If new blood and new leadership is what you want, then why not simply do it? Yep, they have one heck of a strong severance package, but it could have been simply over and done with.

In my experience, if you put a man in a corner and threaten his livelihood and more importantly his reputation – you’re going to have a fight on your hands. And that’s what we have now. I guess these gentlemen should have just shown up tonight to argue their point of view but not legally defend themselves? Is that what you would do? What I would do? I have no idea. But apparently it is what certain members of City Council and the Mayor were expecting.

This is karma pure and simple – an action has caused a reaction, and no one should be surprised at that.

And for those who would say, “drain the swamp”, that they deserve to be fired for cause and not receive their severance: I don’t know and I’m not the person to make that judgement – but how much now will we be spending as a City to defend itself legally given this new situation? Will it end up being as much as, or even possibly more than the severance? Guess we’ll have to see how this goes.

Future Plans

Another question I’ve had since last week was, who would step in as the Acting City Manager and City Attorney? In the past, when under Mayor Rod Woodbury our City Manager was replaced, he spoke to certain staff in advance about them potentially stepping into that role. So clearly, he had a plan and was lining things up in advance so the City could still function during the transition.

However, I’ve spoken to several people in City Hall and can find no one who has been approached to have filled in for these potential vacant city roles. So, who was going to step into these highly important jobs? Most especially the City Manager – and if we’ve forgotten, in the middle of a pandemic! What was the plan? Were the fill-in appointees going to come from outside of City Hall? And is THAT smart? And what about transparency? I guess we’ll have to wonder about that one as well.

Winners and Losers

Even during a pandemic, there are many good, good things about Boulder City. Our business core has held strong with very few closures overall, and new businesses have opened or are working on that process as we speak.

Overall our COVID-19 numbers have remained low and my observations of City staff and their collective efforts to communicate with our community through many, many crazy changes during the State of Emergency has been amazing. As a rural community we have been very lucky.

But anyone with eyes and ears that have been trained to observe the relationship between some members of our City Council and City Staff can see, that this has been a strained relationship, at best. But now instead of this sort of ‘cold war’ raging beneath the scenes we will have a flat-out legal battle to watch unfold.

Who wins? That will remain to be seen now and likely many moons ahead. Who loses? Us. The People. Because now our leadership will be distracted by this legal battle and all of the tensions that will inevitably arise out of this will likely be meaningful in the weeks and months ahead. Plus, you’ve got a City Staff who are working their tails off lately, and I can’t imagine how their morale won’t be affected. And lastly, this is all happening against a backdrop of great uncertainty, economic strain, budgetary shortfalls, the impacts of online schooling and a host of other issues, which will need to be managed by all of us, and our leadership in City Hall. Good luck to them all – we’re going to need it!

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