public officials for a sales tax increase and — claiming poverty — has
even reduced its public law-enforcement activity.
All the while, however, the department was also gifting Culinary Union
Local 226 with over $195,000 worth of free police services.
That’s enough to cover total compensation for two officers that the
department says it needs. Or it could fund police response to many of
the traffic accidents Metro recently began ignoring.
From June 14, 2013, to March 8, 2014, Metro’s staffing of the Culinary
Union’s regular protests outside the Cosmopolitan cost taxpayers
$204,549.60, police records show.
During that period, Metro only charged the Culinary Union Local 226
once — giving it an $8,858 bill following a civil disobedience “event”
conducted by the union.
Deducting that bill, the nine-month Metro subsidy of Culinary protests
amounts to $195,964.60.
Metro provided the information in response to a Nevada Journal public
Typically, for events on the Strip that require police officers, Metro
seeks reimbursement from event organizers for the cost of those
In this case, however, taxpayers have footed and continue to foot the
bill for the demonstrations, in which union members have hurled
offensive, personal insults at people who cross the picket line and
have intentionally had themselves arrested.
Metro’s public information officer said the department doesn’t
specifically exempt the Culinary Union from reimbursement
requirements: It exempts unions, period.
“It is our policy not to charge organizers of labor disputes,” Officer
Jesse Roybal, the department’s PIO, said in the public-records-act
response. “LVMPD must remain a neutral third-party to these disputes.
An organized labor event can be treated and billed like any other
special event if it is not a demonstration against a specific
In the one instance that the department sought reimbursement from the
Culinary Union, Metro did not even ask for the department’s full
costs. According to police records, when the union conducted its
pre-planned acts of civil disobedience — in which members blocked
traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard outside the Cosmopolitan and over 100
were arrested — the $8,585.50 that Metro charged the union for police
overtime was only half of the full costs.
That full cost — the balance of which was billed to taxpayers — was $16,797.02.
In contrast, Metro routinely charges other special events for the cost
of the police. Metro provided billing information for events on the
Strip from March 8 to 21, showing charges ranging from $690 for a
concert at the House of Blues, to $27,495.50 to cover a boxing event
at the MGM Grand. The median cost of on-duty police resources billed
for reimbursement was $7,494.50.
The Culinary Union’s per-event tabs — picked up by taxpayers — have
usually been much higher. From June 14, 2013 to March 8, 2014, Metro
deployed resources for 18 pickets, ranging in cost from $3,769.47 to
$21,285.93. The median cost incurred by the department was $11,437.47.
Last summer, Metro’s then PIO Larry Hadfield told the Las Vegas
Review-Journal that the department decides whether to seek
reimbursement from event organizers based on whether the event is a
for-profit or nonprofit one. As the Review-Journal’s Editorial Board
aptly noted, while the union itself is not a for-profit entity, its
members would reap great profit were it to succeed in its fight to
squeeze a benefit-heavy contract out of the hotel that’s been in
financial trouble since it opened in 2010.
The union boasts on its website that members receive free health care,
401K retirement savings plans, pensions, scholarships, additional
insurance and other benefits. The New York Daily News reports members
are paid higher-than-average wages, with most housekeepers at hotels
on the Strip starting at $16 an hour.
Roybal, Metro’s current PIO, claims that Metro’s refusal to seek
reimbursement allows Metro to be a “neutral third-party” in the labor
dispute, yet providing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in
in-kind donations suggests anything but neutrality.
This is especially true when Sheriff Doug Gillespie has led the charge
for a 0.15 percent sales tax hike to increase staffing levels.
Additionally, Metro claims it is so short on officers that it stopped
responding to non-injury traffic collisions March 3. Yet Metro still
provided officers — free of charge to the union — to work Culinary
226’s March 8 protest.
The money Metro failed to bill the Culinary Union is enough to cover
the total compensation of two additional police officers, based on
compensation information on TransparentNevada.com.
As Culinary protests persist, Metro’s in-kind contribution, worth
hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to the union, continue as
Chantal Lovell can be reached at Chantal@nevadajournal.com. For more