LV probe of UMC not affected by death of key figure, Gillespie says


The recent suicide of Chicago political operative Orlando Jones isn't slowing Metro's corruption investigation of former University Medical Center chief executive officer Lacy Thomas, Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Thursday.

During an interview at the Review-Journal, Gillespie said he was recently briefed on the ongoing investigation and learned the Jones suicide "will not impact our case here locally."

Police had named Jones as a person of interest in their criminal investigation of Thomas, who resigned earlier this year as the county medical center's boss under a cloud of suspicion that he had directed lucrative contracts to friends and business associates in Chicago, where he once was in charge of a Cook County hospital.

Jones' body was found Sept. 12 near Gowdy Shores Beach in Union Pier, Mich., on the edge of Lake Michigan. Jones, 52, had spent much of his political career as a well-connected insider in Chicago. He also worked at a hospital with Thomas.

Jones died of what police have called a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left a suicide note that spoke highly of Thomas and wife Henrene.

Several weeks ago, Metro detectives failed in their attempt to interview Jones.

CLAUDINE'S MESSAGE: Casino industry hall-of-famer Claudine Williams imparts a lot of wisdom in a little space in her recently published oral history, but her perspective on education is one of my favorites.

"I didn't have an education," Williams told UNLV associate professor of history Joanne Goodwin in "Claudine Williams: A Life in Gaming," which is available on campus at the Women's Research Institute of Nevada. "I know how hard it is in business without one. I had to stay up late at night and study something when the others went on to sleep because they already knew it. I had no choice. I want to try to help anybody that wants an education.

"I'd like for the young people to realize that without an education they may be working for minimum wage the rest of their life. It's a different time and everything else is electronics and engineering. Listen, even to be a waiter you've got to work a computer. And young people a lot of times want to quit school 'cause they're making a good bit of money bussing. Or, I would like to try to convince them how hard it is out in the world without an education. You've got to work twice as hard."

Williams has always put her money where her mouth is. She is an original member of the UNLV Foundation.

Goodwin, who conducted the interviews and edited the slender but compelling book, is the director of the Women's Research Institute.

HOUSING SLUMP: Southern Nevadans hoping for relief from the plummeting housing market will have to wait until well into 2008, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor tells Bloomberg news.

MIT's William Wheaton said, "Las Vegas is an important barometer for where the rest of the nation's home prices are going because it's going to show us how quickly the investors head for the doors. It will put the floor under the housing correction.''

The article notes market experts are estimating a 5.6 percent drop by May with the bottom of the slide arriving next fall.

Earlier this week, Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis also predicted the down cycle would last into 2008, but added that the many Strip casino resort projects now under construction would increase the need for more housing.

ARYAN WARRIORS: A North Las Vegas Detention Center official confirms last week's report that an inmate recently suffered a broken leg in an altercation.

Sources say the inmate was roughed up by the Aryan Warriors, a white-supremacist group now under federal indictment.

A detention center spokesman said the victim declined to identify his assailants.

ON THE BOULEVARD: Las Vegas Gaming Inc. reports its Nevada Numbers progressive keno jackpot hit this week at Sam's Town, but the winner has yet to come forward. Hey, the jackpot's only worth $6.37 million. ... Didi Carson, who died earlier this month at age 78, was a former Nevada delegate to the National Democratic Convention and a longtime supporter of civil rights in the community. ... More rumblings are surfacing about a possible initiative petition drive to compete with a current plan to increase the gaming tax. The alternative version is bound to raise questions about the true motives behind the petition.

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0295.