Harrah's paying for review of local remodeling works

Harrrah's Entertainment is paying for an outside review of its local remodeling projects to verify they meet safety codes, in an arrangement agreed to by the Clark County District Attorney's Office.

"The D.A. thought it would be prudent to conduct an independent, third-party review," said Stacey Welling, a Clark County spokeswoman. The agreement calls for Leo A Daly -- an engineering and architecture firm with offices in 25 cities around the world, including Las Vegas -- to scrutinize 60 randomly selected projects at Bally's, Bills, Caesars Palace, Flamingo Las Vegas, Harrah's Las Vegas, Imperial Palace, Paris Las Vegas and Rio. The review will look into mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural work at the sites.

The county will administer the Daly contract, but Harrah's will reimburse the county up to $960,000 in fees and $240,000 in other expenses. Leo A Daly will take about six months to complete the review, according to the agreement, which was signed Aug. 6. County commissioners approved the arrangement in a Sept. 16 vote.

The district attorney asked county management to select a qualified firm; the county's Department of Real Property Management selected Leo A Daly, Welling said.

While the review is under way, the district attorney has agreed to postpone acting on misdemeanor complaints pending against the gaming corporation and two of its employees, in connection with problematic remodeling projects at the Rio and Harrah's Las Vegas hotels.

The Review-Journal recently learned of the agreement's existence when lawyer Richard Bryan, representing Harrah's Entertainment, told the newspaper he had signed a stipulation to postpone again, until April 2009, the three misdemeanor arraignments. That document contains the terms of the agreement.

The first two cases, naming individual defendants, have had repeated continuances since their original arraignment dates were set for April 1, 2008. The third complaint, which names Harrah's Entertainment as defendant, was filed in May.

"It is in the best interests of justice to have an independent review ... to determine the current level of building and fire code compliance by Harrah's," the agreement reads. "It is also in the best interests of Harrah's to have the District Attorney defer possible enforcement actions" until the review is complete.

"This is an unusual misdemeanor," Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent said in September, when the Review-Journal asked what was holding up the Harrah's arraignments. Inspectors found that some of the problematic work, which was in place for several years, fell short of safety codes, besides taking place without permits or inspections.

Failing to comply with a safety code is a misdemeanor, according to Nevada law. A code violation usually cannot be enhanced to a more severe crime category -- regardless of how many building occupants were exposed to risk, even for a span of years -- unless severe injury or death resulted from the violation, independent fire-safety consultant Terry Taylor of Northern Nevada has said.

Welling said work continues on upgrading fire safety at the Rio and Harrah's Las Vegas, which Harrah's Entertainment promised to do in October 2007 letters to the Clark County Fire Department. Laura Foley, a representative at Leo A Daly's Las Vegas office, declined comment on its review of Harrah's hotels.

Contact reporter Joan Whitely at jwhitely@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0268.