Dysfunctional relationships are a normal part of life. Many people suffer under them and even joke about them in their family lives. But it’s no laughing matter when they manifest themselves among our elected officials and public servants. We must remember that we are the public, and that public employees work for us. We are their boss. We (well, most of us) do not elect officials to conduct personal vendettas. We do not pay our unelected government managers to take sides in political issues and use the power of their position to drive personal or special-interest agendas, which rarely aligns with legitimate citizen’s interests. The dysfunction in the Clark County government is on display for all to see. It’s rare to go to a County Council Board meeting and not witness the overt rudeness, lack of respect and insubordination by the County Council majority and many top-level County employees.
The following exchange from the April 19 Board of County Councilors hearing between County Manager Mark McCauley and councilor David Madore is typical of the dysfunction endemic to our County government. To set the stage, the board is discussing the retention of an outside law firm to investigate allegations made by councilor Madore against members of the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Madore: Mr. Chairman, I have a question regarding. . . you mentioned there’s a contract with the. . . with an outside attorney firm that’s been in place for some time. The contract was signed by the County Manager. I wonder how did that contract get signed, because chapter two of our County code requires all contracts to be placed on the contracts grid for one week. During that week, any county councilor can pull it. If they pull it, then it needs to go to this board for majority approval. As far as I know that has not happened. I’m curious, how did that contract get signed?
McCauley: I used a pen
Madore: Say again?
McCauley: I used a pen
Madore: Can you answer the question please?
Madore: In other words. . .
McCauley: That contract was discussed by this governing body in advance of me signing it. There was unanimous approval that these allegations were to be investigated and to do that we would require an outside attorney. I viewed that as the green light to sign the contract without posting it on the grid. The contract contains information that is somewhat confidential, and Emily Sheldrick [employment attorney in the PA’s office] advises us not to post contracts of that nature on our grid.
Madore: The way that I found out about the contract. . . I didn’t even know it existed. . . Is that someone pointed to it on a website at a newspaper media. It’s been posted, so it’s not confidential, it’s been posted out there in the media. That’s how I found out about it. When I sent you an email asking you did that contract exist, who signed it, how did it happen, you didn’t respond, instead I saw the contract with your signature on it there. The question is, well certainly we need to have process; problem is that we’re not following process. If there was an exception, if there was an emergency, if there was something that says we’re going to go around the requirement that County code specifies, then I can understand that it would be appropriate. But I wasn’t even aware that there was such a contract. So the question Is, how can we follow process, if we have a contract that’s being signed without our knowledge, going around what ought to be process?
McCauley: This is unique circumstance, I exercised the judgment that I’m paid to exercise, and I think uh . . . I scheduled this topic for board time tomorrow so that we can have a discussion about it, and whether the board believes I did the wrong thing.
Procedure? We don’t need no stinkin’ procedure! One can be forgiven for thinking Mr. McCauley was making a joke that he, “Used a pen.” If you watch the video, this is no joke. This is stark, derisive insubordination. Mr. McCauley feels invulnerable because he knows he has the backing of the Council Chair and the majority of board members. He seems to think this can give them license to be disrespectful to a county councilor with whom he disagrees—including not responding to or slow-walking email queries. We know there’s no love lost between councilor Madore and Mr. McCauley, as councilor Madore has publicly questioned the wisdom of hiring Mr. McCauley as the permanent County Manager without a proper candidate search.
It’s good for Mr. McCauley that he works in government, because in private business such behavior would, at the very least, earn him a pointed discussion with those in charge. If he acted in such a fashion toward someone with a supervisory role, it might be suggested that his services are no longer required. Private businesses recognize that this sort of childish behavior increases stress, lowers productivity, and creates other insidious drag on the organization, so it’s not usually tolerated. Under the leadership of our Council majority and Council Chair, this sort of behavior is apparently not only tolerated, but encouraged.
Mr. McCauley did not follow proper, documented procedure for hiring an investigative law firm. He ignored the standing contract the county uses for such services, did not put the draft contract on the grid for the Councilors to scrutinize, and made specious excuses for not following established rules. Why?
The reason for McCauley’s hasty act and willful breaching of the rules is that he’s in damage control mode and probably needs to hide details of how these actions have occurred. Is it possible that he believed the third-party attorney normally retained by the county would substantiate the allegations made against the prosecuting attorney’s office? Did he perhaps think his selected attorney for this contract would produce a more favorable result? Did he take this action on his own initiative, or was there some behind the scenes collusion with one or more councilors?
When caught red-handed circumventing established procedure, Mr. McCauley lamely claimed the information is confidential and so justified his failure to publish it. This is obviously a flat-out lie. If the information about the contract was so confidential, what was it doing on a newspaper’s website? If the County Manager is advised to withhold items from public notice due to confidentiality reasons, why is there not another channel to present and communicate these to the five councilors? When councilor Madore questioned Mr. McCauley in a memo about the contract, Mr. McCauley chose to ignore the memo and not respond – a further act of insubordination.
Mr. McCauley, having been caught violating County procedures, lying about it, and having his lie immediately exposed, speciously asserted that he had exercised a judgment call.
This highlights the need for a diligent search for qualified candidates when recruiting a permanent County Manager, followed by a vetting and selection process to hire the most qualified candidate. Mr. McCauley, by his own admission, exercised a judgment call. His judgment was flawed and his subsequent actions unethical as he attempted to hide the corruption and incompetence. With all these known issues with McCauley, no one in their right mind would accept him for the permanent county manager position without a critical review and examination of multiple candidates. Many prior issues with Mark McCauley are documented by ClarkCounty.info.
The office of County Manager is not supposed to be partisan position. The job of the County Manager is to execute the will of the board of the County Councilors. He’s not being paid to make partisan valuations, or put his thumb on the scale when decisions are being weighed. In any private concern, his behavior would land him in the unemployment office. We the people are his boss. We must demand better from our employees, and hold them accountable when they failed to live up to expectations and normal standards of decent behavior. This is true for the County Manager, all public employees and our elected councilors. Write to your County councilors. Let them know that you expect more from them than schoolyard squabbling. Remind them that they work for you — us — and that the citizen’s evaluation of their behavior will come on Election Day.