RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- The Reno City Council may double what the City is paying to a legal firm to negotiate its union contracts, again.
This week, an item on the Council agenda was pulled and continued to June 25. It would pay the firm Fisher & Phillips LLP up to $600,000 to negotiate its union contracts.
If approved, this would be the second time this year the contract was doubled. In 2013, the Council agreed to retain the Los Angeles-based firm for an amount not to exceed $150,000. In February, the Council agreed to extend the contract to 2015, and double what it was paying to as much as $300,000.
The City of Reno has been in negotiations with six labor unions since early 2013. Two of those unions have already entered into the initial stages of arbitration. A staff report from this week's Council agenda notes the City is prepared to proceed to fact finding with the four remaining organizations, if an agreement is not reached in the near future.
The two most vocal unions are the Reno Fire Fighters' Association and the Reno Police Protective Association. Retired police officer and Chief Negotiator Ron Dreher said the expenditure was a waste of taxpayer money, as the firm has no incentive to reach agreements with the collective bargining units. "They have no reason in the world to resolve a collective bargaining argeement. They have a lot of reason in the world to make $400 and some odd dollars an hour on the City's dime or the taxpayer's dime."
Reno Police Protective Association President Jason Soto agrees with Dreher. "What I see happening, if we continue on this route, I see it costing the City and the taxpayers a lot of money till the end of time, because it cost a lot of money to negotiate with lawyers from out-of-state that charge $400 or so dollars an hour."
The Reno Fire Fighters' Association also believes paying this firm to negotiate is a waste of money. They released the following statement:
"The Reno Fire Fighters' Association feels the City of Reno is not properly prioritizing public safety for the citizens of Reno. The action to approve additional spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside legal counsel against its own employees refects yet another questionable decision from the City Manager's office. This action comes after the Reno Fire Fighters' Association made double digit concessions during the economic downturn. It was our understsanding and expectation that the City was slowly recovering financially and we could expect a productive working relationship with long term goals of enhancing public safety and employee recovery. This is simply a waste of City funds and not in the best interests of our community."
Reno City Councilmember Dwight Dortch responded, saying this firm has had a lot of success in Las Vegas coming to terms with that City's labor unions. Dortch has maintained some of the current union contracts are unsustainable and pose the biggest challenge facing the City of Reno. "It's about having the right team at the table at these contract negotiations. We're not talking about the impact over the next year, these contracts live with us forever and we've got to get them under control."
News 4 tried to reach City Manager Andrew Clinger and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell to explain why this expense is necessary and what it means to taxpayers. We are still waiting to hear from them.