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I-Team: Sheriff Questions Use of 'More Cops' Money | News

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I-Team: Sheriff Questions Use of 'More Cops' Money

The Clark County Sheriff is asking questions about the way the city of North Las Vegas used its "More Cops" money. You may remember the sales tax increase passed in 2004 to hire additional police officers. Recently, the 8 News Now I-Team revealed the North Las Vegas Police Department has far fewer "More Cops" than expected.

The city of North of Las Vegas admits it hired fewer than half the police officers it projected under "More Cops." yet it insists, it followed the letter of the law. But did it subvert the spirit? We asked the men who campaigned to pass it.

Then Clark County Sheriff Bill Young was on the campaign trail in September of 2004 -- not as a candidate for office -- but as an advocate for public safety. Young leveraged his political capital to earn voter approval of the "More Cops" ballot initiative. The quarter-cent sales tax increase would put more cops on the streets valley wide.

"I committed that my department, the Metro Police Department, that the money would be used solely for more police officers and most importantly, we were simply not going to supplant current funding with this new found source of money," said Young's.

His promise, later printed in state law and county code, prevents the use of "More Cops" money to replace existing funding of police services. During his tenure, Young insists the Metro Police Department added officers with city and county money plus the "More Cops" fund.

"I thought it was incredibly important to give my word and do what I said I was going to do with that money," he said.

"And I consider myself a big part of that because I was right there standing next to Bill," said Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

To account for Metro's "More Cops" spending, current Sheriff Doug Gillespie requested an audit last year. It found Metro in compliance with state law. Of the 600 "More Cops" the department expected to add, Gillespie tells the I-Team, it has hired 584.

"I can't speak on behalf of Boulder City, Mesquite and Henderson and North Las Vegas, I can speak on behalf of Metro and I think we've done exactly what it is we said we were going to do with the money," Gillespie said.

Unlike Metro, an I-Team investigation of "More Cops" spending in North Las Vegas revealed the city has fewer than half the additional officers it planned to hire. Forty six "More Cops" instead of the 105 positions approved by the city council. City financial records show North Las Vegas has increased the amount of money allocated the police department. While at the same time decreasing the overall percentage of the city budget earmarked for police services.

"I believe those are appropriate uses of those funds," said Gregory Rose, North Las Vegas city manager. "We certainly recognize that the percentage of funds allocated to the police department has been reduced, but that's percentage and the law doesn't focus on percentages. What it focuses on is total budget."

Rose also defends his decision last year to shift 32 officers already on the payroll into the "More Cops" fund instead of hiring additional officers. He insists it was merely an effort to correct a coding mistake. Yet a finance memo obtained by the I-Team, explains the moves as an effort to relieve the city budget of the burden of those salaries and benefits.

Reporter Colleen McCarty: "Is it appropriate to take officers who are already on the payroll in the general fund and move them into the "More Cops" fund?"

Sheriff Doug Gillespie: "I don't believe that was the intent. In fact, I know that wasn't the intent of the More Cops sales tax initiative."

Gillespie has more than a passing interest in his neighbor's spending habits. In two years, he must again ask a reluctant state legislature to approve the second quarter-cent of the sales tax increase. The final campaign stop for public safety in Southern Nevada.

"It's not that complicated. We went to the public and said we needed more police officers," said Gillespie.

"If anybody has done anything outside those parameters, I'm very disappointed. And if I were a taxpayer in that jurisdiction, I'd be not disappointed, I'd be angry, Young said.

The I-Team has learned the Sheriff met Tuesday with North Las Vegas officials. He has thus far declined to reveal what was said. However after refusing repeated requests for an interview, Mayor Shari Buck sent a written statement. She says, in an effort to remain above reproach, she will request an outside review of the city's "More Cops" spending. The city's external auditors, Piercy, Bowler, Taylor and Kern are expected to conduct the audit.