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One Consultant Hired, Another Fired - Videos
Posting Date: 06/27/2012

By Barbara Ellestad

INTERNAL SERVICES DIRECTOR MIKE CALLAHAN LEAVING CITY STAFF

The Mesquite City Council refused to renew two Consulting Service Agreement contracts it had with long-time consultant Robcyn, LLC, at its June 26 meeting.

"I think there's been some disagreement over how we've proceeded over a long period of time. My major concern is that Robcyn sits on several sides of the table quite often," Councilman George Rapson remarked as the agenda item opened for discussion. "They represent a lot of people; Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Virgin Valley Water District, and others in the area that have competing interests, or at least conflicting interests. Our consultants should be 100 percent focused on us."

Robcyn furnishes consulting services to the City for its part in the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, the Virgin River Habitat and Conservation Recovery Plan, the Gold Butte National Conservation Area, and the Lincoln County Land Act.

Saying he agreed with Rapson, Councilman Kraig Hafen explained that John Willis, who is an Associate Planner in the City's Development Services Department, would be capable of continuing work on the conservation plans. "He's worked with the different agencies. I think we're in good hands with the Staff that we have here."

Mike Ford and Barry Stubbs, the primary partners in Robcyn, LLC, received $3,000 per month under the General Services Agreement and an additional $4,500 per month for the Fish and Wildlife Services Agreement. The second agreement's monthly payment was reduced last year from $6,000 per month.

"I guess I have a different opinion," Councilman Karl Gustaveson said. "Robcyn has dealt with the City for over seven years. They've accomplished a lot, in a lot of areas."

Adding that Robcyn was involved in the original land "take-down" when Mesquite purchased over 10,000 acres from the Bureau of Land Management, Gustaveson said "They've done a lot of good things for us. I don't think John has the connections with all the agencies that we have to deal with."

He added that if the contract with Robcyn wasn't renewed, "I recommend we use another consulting firm. I recommend we keep them until we have the habitat plans set in concrete and we know where we're going."

Work on the Virgin River Habitat and Conservation Recovery Plan began in 2004 but has yet to be completed.

"After sitting in meetings with Mr. Ford, some of them got quite contentious. I don't always agree personally with their approach on how they represented us in the past or how they were going to represent us in the future," Councilman Geno Withelder said.

"We had some major and contentious disagreements. We should really consider what we're going to do with these folks in the future. I'm not sure their future work is something that's going to be in our best interest."

A motion to not renew the two contracts with Robcyn but to explore alternative consultants, and whether a consultant was necessary at all, was approved on a 4-1 vote with Gustaveson casting the lone nay. No representatives from the consulting firm attended the Council meeting.

In a later agenda item, the Council approved a contract with Hardy Consulting Group, primarily with Warren Hardy. He replaces Randy Robison of Capitol Strategies who was the City's lobbyist in Carson City, NV, since 2001. Robison accepted a position with Century Link, as its Director of Government Affairs. Century Link is a private enterprise that provides telephone, Internet, and television access to businesses and individuals.

Hardy explained that he served as the City's lobbyist in the early 1990s and helped bring several major projects to Mesquite. "I think helping bring the Recreation Center into Mesquite was at the top of the list of things I'm most proud of." Other facilities and projects Hardy included were the first Mesquite office of the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Mesquite branch of the College of Southern Nevada, providing a seat for Mesquite on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and increasing the City's funding from that organization, the Nevada Welcome Center located at the I-15, Exit 122, and work on the first Mesquite Lands Act.

Hardy has been involved in Mesquite

water issues through the years, both as a consultant and as an elected representative in the Nevada State Legislature, He served first as an Assemblyman in the 1990s and later as a Senator, representing Mesquite. He resigned from the Senate in 2009 to return to his consulting firm.

He was also involved in bringing the Primex plastics manufacturing plant to Mesquite along with the Mesquite Municipal Justice Center on Hillside Drive.

"I've been very proud of what I've been able to help the City of Mesquite do," Hardy commented to the Council.

Councilman Al Litman questioned Hardy about the number of other clients he represented as a consultant. "At the end of 2011 you were representing 19 entities, I believe. How many are you now representing," Litman queried.

"Many of those entities were business groups that were conglomerates of the same business. I think there's about eight clients now that I represent," Hardy answered. He added that none of them were local governments. "None of them [other clients] are competing interests."

Hardy signed a similar consulting contract with the Virgin Valley Water District that's effective July 1.

Rapson requested that Hardy supply the Council with quarterly update reports on his activities supporting Mesquite. "I want our constituents to understand that something is being done for their money." Hardy agreed.

Even though Hardy's contract is focused mainly on State-level issues, Hafen asked if Hardy would be willing to work on issues at the Clark County level. "I'll be happy to state for the public record that I will consider myself your government affairs representative at any level of government," Hardy replied.

Saying that he was most impressed with Hardy's grass-roots background, Withelder commented that "I believe it's important for people to know. We just eliminated another consulting service so you may have some shoes to fill there."

Mayor Mark Wier remarked that "I've had an opportunity to work with both Randy and Warren over the many years. I've always been appreciative of all the things you've done for our city. You have both served us very well."

Hardy's contract was approved on a 5-0 vote.

The Council approved the sale of a 2003 Ford Mustang GT to Mesquite Police Department Officer Justin Goodsell. The vehicle is a specially equipped car that Goodsell uses in promotional events like D.A.R.E. and Beat the Heat that help teach children about safety issues. City Attorney Cheryl Hunt was concerned about liability issues if Goodsell continued using the city-owned car at the events.

The transaction is unusual because most vehicles are sold at auction. However, MPD Chief Troy Tanner explained that about $8,500 of donated equipment would have to be removed from the vehicle before it could be sold at auction. Goodsell is purchasing the car for $4,590 and will donate his personal time to continue using the vehicle at special events.

In other Council action:

--City Manager Andy Barton announced that Interim Services Director Mike Callahan had accepted a position in California. Callahan, who has been with the City for five years, will leave the City's employment on July 26;

--Introduced a bill pertaining to recommendations for financial assistance provided through the Redevelopment Agency (RDA). The RDA Board recently revised downward the amounts of money that can be approved without its express consent, lowering the caps from $99,999 to $50,000 per project;

--Introduced a bill to reduce the amount of money utility companies must pay the City for Right-of-Way fees. Currently the City collects three percent of each utility charge for each customer. Under the proposed bill, the charge will be reduced one-half percent each year until it disappears in six years;

--Approved Mesquite Campus Lease Agreements for the 2012-13 Fiscal Year. See MCJ article Mesquite Council Authorizes Partial Fee Increase, Hears Econ Dev Plan-Video;

--Renewed the City's insurance policy with the Nevada Public Agency Pool;

--Approved Debbie Cardenas, Finance Director, as the City's Treasurer.

Consideration of approving a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by Lincoln County protesting a proposed annexation by the City of Mesquite of land north of the county line was removed from the Consent Agenda at the request of C&O Holdings, LLC, a party in the lawsuit.

 

Commentary
  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    The council has long been a sucker for consultants (and the city still has others hidden away) but just hires them then doesn't demand to know what they do. Gustaveson is the worst, he never met a consultant he didn't hire. Hardy gets hired now just goes along his merry way just getting a free ride and writing everything off on his taxes. It's a bad system unless the consultant produces and reports back each and every month to the public before the council (its our money thats paying him). Consultants lead the way to corruption and Hardy is tight with contractors. Not a good idea.
    By: Vic M
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    Congratulations to councilmen Rapson, Hafen, Withelder, and Litman for taking a stand against one of the MANY consultants to whom the city has paid millions of dollars over the years. To hire consultants when we have such talented and capable people on our staff is a waste of taxpayer money and an insult to the hard working members of our staff. The amount Robcyn was getting from the city would equate to 3 staff salaries, meaning 3 layoffs we wouldn't have had to make in the last two years. (We laid off a dozen local residents, our friends and neighbors, while continuing to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to out-of-town consulting corporations.) I'm still not comfortable with using tax money from one government agency to lobby another government agency. I'm certainly not thrilled that we're rewarding Warren Hardy, a former state senator who turned his back on this community by resigning his Senate seat mid-term, only to use the connections he made while on our dime to become another high-paid lapdog lobbyist. Former legislators becoming lobbyists is one of the things that has wrecked the U.S. Congress, and is certain to have a similarly corrupting and ugly effect on state legislatures.
    By: Devon
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    Sadly, the council STILL hasn't made a move to replace a hideously incompetent City Attorney. In my half century of following government activities, I've NEVER heard of a municipality selling one of their vehicles to an employee (without putting it out to bid, mind you) because they were afraid of liability issues from that employee DOING HIS JOB. I've also never seen an attorney that is as terrified of lawsuits as our City Attorney. Of course, judging by her performance, it's no wonder.
    By: Devon
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    The police officer is wonderful for stepping up and continuing the DARE program using the flashy car. If he is doing city business, how can there be a liability issue? I think the city attorney is wrong or just inept. Time to clean house and get a real attorney. Sad days in Mesquite continue.
    By: bobbiethompson
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    One question, Devon, is there a woman in any position of authority anywhere that you respect?
    By: Justsayin2
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    Hiring Hardy was a mistake, he's useless and one of the good old boys. (Hardy -the name says it all). Now if we can get rid of the former Mesquite fire fighter thats been living off the consultants dole for years while doing nothing.
    By: Charlie
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    I'm so glad you asked, Justsayin2! Christi Kindel was a superb city attorney for Mesquite, before Susan Holecheck ran her off. Donna Fairchild was an excellent City Councilwoman. Sheree Goesmann was a tremendous City Clerk (far better than what we have now), and Carol Woods was even better than Sheree! I believe Sue Conley at Mesa View was a spectacular CEO who actually cared about the community. Judy Cole was one of the best Rotary presidents Mesquite has had (although Bill McClure was THE best). Similar, Pam Gagnon was one of the best presidents of the Mesquite Exchange Club. Nationally, Elizabeth Dole is a tremendous woman, and I would have rather voted for her than her husband, Bob. Similarly, I would vote for Oprah over Obama for president. On the world stage, Margaret Thatcher was the second-best prime minister of England (behind Churchill). I also respected Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel, and Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India. Best of all, I think Barbara Ellestad is one of the best newspaper editors I've ever seen! All that being said, I DON'T feel compelled to keep or defend Cheryl Hunt as Mesquite's City Attorney just because she's a woman. Incompetence knows no gender (although, in my experience, I have known way more incompetent men than women).
    By: Devon
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  • Posted Date: 06/27/2012
    Great answer Devon. I agree 100%. Accepting sub-standard employees like the good old boys club has done here with all their "brothers" is bordering on ccriminal.
    By: Kathy
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