In his first few days in office, Mayor Steve Bach had some very important decisions to make. Including what new desk to buy.
Bach, apparently, hasn't been shy about spending taxpayer cash to improve his new sixth-floor office in the City Administration Building at 30 S. Nevada Ave. Here's how those expenses rack up so far:
• $4,747.05 to remove a wall, creating a large conference area in his office;
• $1,975 to strip and paint the office;
• $16,334.40 to tear out and replace the carpeting there and in surrounding rooms and offices;
• $4,460.45 to buy office furniture.
Bach plans to buy more furniture, and possibly electronics such as a TV, as well.
But before you storm the doors of city government, keep this in mind: It wasn't just Bach who ordered the improvements. Former Mayor Lionel Rivera and Interim City Manager-turned-Chief of Staff Steve Cox both apparently were involved.
City Council President Scott Hente, as well as city workers contacted by city spokesman John Leavitt, say Rivera met with the two mayoral finalists, Bach and Richard Skorman, before the May 17 runoff election. Rivera showed them the offices available if they were elected, then ordered at least some of the remodeling work.
Leavitt adds that Cox likely took the reins after Rivera left office, continuing the changes with Bach's approval.
Hente stresses that the remodel was largely Rivera's idea — and shouldn't be "blamed" on Bach. But it's hard to say which mayor ordered what. The city's communications office was not able to decipher a dividing line, and calls to Bach and Rivera on Tuesday were not returned.
The city did issue a press release on June 17, quoting Cox as saying, "For many years, the Office of the Mayor has been a part-time office. The office for our new form of government was not suited for the kind of public engagement we anticipate."
Others within city government have defended the expenses, or at least defended Bach.
"If Richard Skorman had gotten elected, you'd probably be telling me the same numbers," says Hente, a developer. "Up until that [carpeting] figure, I'm not sure those are out of line with what I would call construction costs, and remember, I'm in this business."
Asked about the office remodel, Jan Martin, Council's president pro-tem, says, "Over the last several years, and particularly the last few years with the budget problems we had, the last worry staff had was the office accommodations. I think when Steve came in and saw the office, he had some concerns.
"It's really up to the new mayor to decide what his needs are and how to accommodate them."
Asked what upgrades she's made to her own City Hall office, which was previously occupied by former Vice Mayor Larry Small, Martin says the only change was fresh paint. Same for other Councilors, including Hente, who's taken Rivera's former office.
Martin says she's not aware of anyone in city government spending so much on an office remodel in her four years on Council.
"You've seen Council offices, and we keep Council offices to the bare minimum," she says. "But we have facilities that work for us, and it's up to [Bach] to decide if his office suite will work for him."