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Las Vegas to pay former city exec $97K to settle ageism claims

The city of Las Vegas agreed Wednesday to pay $97,500 to a former city executive to settle claims he had been ridiculed and forced out in 2017 because of his age and a disability.

Phil Stoeckinger, an ex-deputy director of Economic and Urban Development, filed a federal lawsuit against the city in October 2018, a year after his departure from City Hall.

Stoeckinger, who was 53 years old at the time he was let go, accused officials of pushing him to retire, which he refused to do, and giving him a below-average 1 percent raise although he said he never received warnings about a poor job performance.

Then-Deputy City Manager Scott Adams allegedly said during a management staff meeting that a younger executive, in his mid-40s, had been hired to “dual fill” Stoeckinger’s role, according to the lawsuit, “to capitalize on institutional knowledge held by ‘old farts’ as part of the ‘silver tsunami’ — gray-haired people leaving the workplace.”

Stoeckinger said the reference was directed toward him.

He also accused city employees of putting a depiction of the cartoon, Three Blind Mice, on his office door and writing his name above the mouse shown bumping into a wall. He believed it to be a reference to a staff meeting years earlier, when he hit his head after passing out due to asthma, and to an eye surgery he would soon be having at the time.

The city denied the allegations of discrimination in a court filing responding to the lawsuit. The city declined to comment on the settlement, which was unanimously approved by the City Council.

Attorney Dan Marks, who represented Stoeckinger, said his client would be moving on with his life and not seek reinstatement with the city, where he was hired in 2010.

“I think Phil and I are very satisfied,” he said. “We’re very happy it’s over. It’s a fair resolution.”

Parks volunteerism initiative underway

The city and Get Outdoors Nevada, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, announced a new joint partnership Wednesday to boost resident participation in park beautification projects throughout the city: Volunteers In Parks (VIP).

Get Outdoors Nevada will coordinate a minimum of two volunteer park events per year in each of the city’s six wards. It will also develop a database of volunteers to share across the districts.

“We need their help to keep our parks clean, safe and secure,” Greg Weitzel, the city’s director of Parks and Recreation, said about volunteers. “The purpose of the program is to organize and communicate a close-to-home volunteer project that will help build ownership in their local parks.”

Efforts will include cleanups, graffiti removal, mural touch-ups and more.

Get Outdoors Nevada is no stranger to engaging volunteers: It partners now with the city to upkeep the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, created to memorialize victims of the 1 October mass shooting.

Since 2012, the nonprofit has organized nearly 500 volunteer events amounting to thousands of volunteer hours.

“We’ve been honored to be able to contribute over 42,000 hours with incredible community members who come out to help our parks and trails,” said Mauricia Baca, Get Outdoors Nevada Executive Director.

City, union strike deal

The City Council on Wednesday approved a collective bargaining agreement for last fiscal year between the city and the union representing city marshals, agreeing to a 3.56-percent one-time lump sum for about 114 workers.

The deal with the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which will cost taxpayers nearly $287,000, forgoes the typical cost-of-living adjustment, which would affect pensions and, because it would compound over time, be more expensive in the long run.

It is a similar strategy to how the city has handled agreements with other unions amid major financial strife brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The two sides, which were forced to go to a fact-finder to iron out differences, will soon start negotiating an agreement for the present fiscal year, which began July 1, according to Assistant City Attorney Morgan Davis.

Meanwhile, a bargaining agreement for the last fiscal year with the Las Vegas Peace Officers Association remains elusive. The city and the union, which represents corrections officers, remain divided on issues including equipment allowance, leave, compensation and overtime, and will be headed to arbitration, Davis said.

Eslinger takes over

Las Vegas Deputy City Attorney Jack Eslinger was appointed to be Municipal Court Administrator on Wednesday, meaning he will oversee the daily operations of the city’s court.

Municipal Court handles misdemeanor cases in the city, and its duties include specialty courts, arraignments, classes, bail processing, payments and warrants, the city said.

Eslinger, who has worked for Las Vegas since 2000, will replace former administrator Dana Hlavac, who is “currently looking at another opportunity (within) the city,” according to a city spokesman.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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