By KayLynn Roberts-McMurray
The Ely Times
There was not a seat to spare at last week’s Ely City Council meeting. With two particular agenda items that were ironically last on the agenda had a lot of citizens of Ely frustrated and concerned.
The two items that were up for discussion, possible action and approval were three-year employment contracts for City Attorney Charles Odgers and City Administrator Robert Switzer with the City of Ely. After a discussion, both items were removed from the agenda.
For Odgers, the city would have to agree to pay him $107,500 for each year of the agreement, and as for his services, he would not have a reduced amount during the term of the agreement.
He would be responsible to pay for his health, dental, vision and life insurance premiums in the same manner as all other employees of the city, which is currently 20 percent of the total premium. The city would be responsible for paying 100 percent of the contribution required for enrollment in the state of Nevada Public Employee’s Retirement System. Odgers would continue to work a four 10 hour shift per week, and the city would pay for him to attend any mandatory continuing legal education including tuition, travel, hotel and food requirements.
City Administrator Robert Switzer’s agreement was fairly similar to Odgers, except that his compensation was for $83,470 for each year of the agreement, and Switzer’s position works five days a week, compared to Odgers four-day, 10-hour shift.
Also included in the agreement was a section that included a clause that the parties express intent to avoid the requirements of at-will employment and City Code 1-6B-4 for the elections occurring in June 2017 and June 2019.
When the chance for public comment came available Rick Stork, a candidate running for a city council seat was the first to speak. Stork said “ go back and look at your city codes, it says that what you guys are trying to do is violating the city code and Nevada Revised Statutes, I strongly suggest that you read this paper that came out tonight from an attorney. You should table this tonight, let Pool Pac take a look at it it. You need to start following the ordinances, and the laws. They need to be able to follow the rules like everyone else.”
Jim Alworth, former City Clerk, said “I’d like to talk about these two agenda items about the contracts. They are nothing but malfeasance, and misfeasance. Four years ago the city council changed all employees to at will employees? So now they want to change these two positions from at-will employees to contract employees to protect them from possible termination as at-will employees, this sounds like malfeasance.
“Why should (councilman Bruce) Setterstrom even have any vote on the item for the future, especially when he is soon to be out of office? The people do not want him in office. This sounds like misfeasance. I discussed this contract issue with Council person Jolene Gardner last Friday in great length, she said she would think about tabling it and that she would call Bruce. She suggested that I contact Sam Hanson to voice my concerns with him. Isn’t that funny that there are three council members who are aware of this contract prior to it being placed on the agenda. It sounds like three council members. Whose gonna make the mission Jolene, you or Sam?”
Mark Bassett, executive director of the Nevada Northern Railway, who was the last to speak during public comment said, “I’m here as a private citizen tonight, I have been attending city council meetings since 2001, that’s 16 years. In all that time I’ve never seen anything like this. Trying to pass contracts two weeks before the new city councilmen are going to be elected, it’s astounding. I’d like to know who wrote the contract? And if it was the city attorney, who reviewed that contract for the city? It appears that if Mr. Odgers wrote that contract is in violation of Rule 1.8(s) is in violation of the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct.
This rule states that a lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client which would be the City of Ely, or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security or other pecuriary interest adverse , unless the transaction and terms are fair and reasonable. It also states that the City of Ely (client) should be given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel on the transaction.
“It appears Odgers is entering into a business transaction with his client the City of Ely. The terms of the contract is what so many were questioning. It would require the city to all but guarantee City Attorney Odgers’ and City Administrator Switzer’s job and that if the city council decided to terminate either of them, they would have to pay them their total salary immediately, not in an installment basis.
Councilman Kurt Carson quickly requested a motion to remove these two items from the agenda, with Councilman Hanson making a second.