Layoffs are Clark County’s alternative to 5 percent pay cut

D.A. Wolfson balks at proposed job losses

county bldg
Clark County Government Center (Clark County photo)

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom confirms that bargaining units that reject a 5 percent pay cut to offset the budget hole created by the COVID-19 pandemic are subject to layoffs.

“Layoffs are pursuant to each bargaining unit’s contract,” Segerblom said, noting they are based on seniority.

Clark County officials previously said they’ll rely on reduced hours, a shorter workweek, a five percent cut in pay, and voluntary furloughs and separations to help fill a $284 million deficit in fiscal year 2021, but a letter obtained by the Current reveals jobs are also on the line.

In a July 1 letter to Clark County Manager Yolanda King, District Attorney Steve Wolfson says the county’s plan to layoff three investigators from his office “is not only a threat to public safety, but also not necessary in order to address the budgetary crisis…”

Wolfson says he would “attempt to find cost savings elsewhere” but tells King that Assistant County Manager Jeff Wells “was unwilling to let me have control over my budget in order to find areas of cost savings” to offset the personnel costs of the three investigators.

“As the elected District Attorney of Clark County, I am responsible for the administration of this office and the protection of the community utilizing resources allocated to me by the Board of County Commissioners,” Wolfson wrote.  “As an elected official, I do note cede operational control of the functions of my office as I am answerable to the public.”

Wolfson admits in the letter that state law “is abundantly clear” that County Commissioners establish the D.A.’s budget, “but, as the District Attorney, I am the ultimate authority on how those resources are allocated. Therefore, my position is that the layoff notices sent to my employees are not proper.”

“On what basis do you believe that the County intends to lay off employees?” Commissioner Justin Jones inquired when asked about the option.

“Talk to Wolfson,” Jones responded when informed of the district attorney’s letter.

Other commissioners, Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Larry Brown, Jim Gibbons, Michael Naft, and Lawrence Weekly did not respond to requests for comment.

“My letter to Ms. King was intended to open a dialogue about the interpretation of who controls the budget for the District Attorney’s office, based on a previous court ruling from a case in Sparks,” Wolfson said via email. “It was sent after we were informed that the County was going to issue layoff notices to some of our investigators. We are already short-staffed on that team and layoffs should be the last resort if other equal concessions or budget savings could not be reached. “

Wolfson says he is “not a party to the union negotiations, nor is it my desire to become one.  My assertion is that if layoffs are imminent, I should have standing to look for other ways to accomplish budget savings within the budget I control, rather than lose valuable staff members on a team that is already overwhelmed with work as a result of currently vacant positions and pending retirements.”

County spokesman Erik Pappa would not say if other bargaining units have been notified of possible layoffs.

Pappa says the two largest unions representing county workers, Service Employees International Union 1107 and the International Association of Firefighters, have agreed to reduce their work hours from 40 to 38 and take a five percent pay cut, effective July 25.

Pappa says the County is “negotiating cost reductions with the remaining union groups.”

The District Attorney’s office serves as legal counsel to the Board of Clark County Commissioners, raising questions about whether a conflict of interest exists that would prevent the D.A. from advising the board on Wolfson’s request.

County revenue has been decimated by the economic effects of COVID-19.  Officials project a loss of as much as $1 billion in the next 16 months.

Dana Gentry
Senior Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, a grandson, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.