An international company with expertise in the construction industry was hired Tuesday to investigate the handling of a complaint about remodeling completed at two hotel-casinos without permits or inspections.
Although one Clark County commissioner cast doubt on the need for an audit, the board voted unanimously to hire Kessler International.
The company will determine whether the county responded properly to whistle-blower Fred Frazzetta's concerns about possible safety hazards from construction work at the Rio and Harrah's Las Vegas.
The company will assess the efficiency of the investigatory procedures used by the building division, which is responsible for issuing permits and inspecting remodeling and new construction.
Commissioner Tom Collins voted for the $50,000 audit and said he thinks it will clear the county of any wrongdoing. "I'll support this because I know we've been doing our job and doing it well," Collins said. "I don't want to have a study, but if it makes people feel good, then go ahead and do it."
Frazzetta, who worked on the remodeling projects, filed a complaint with the county in August 2006. Six months later, an inspector visited the properties and closed the case the same day.
It was not until the Review-Journal began asking questions that the county formally reopened the investigation in September.
Because of the re-inspection, Harrah's Entertainment closed 140 rooms at the Rio and more than 500 at Harrah's.
Collins dismissed the newspaper's role in prompting a more thorough inspection of the remodeling work and said County Manager Virginia Valentine already had started the process.
"I think our county folks did a good job, the staff did a good job and the inspectors did a good job," Collins said. "It was (Development Services Director) Ron Lynn who got us in there, not the R-J stories."
Collins said he expects no disciplinary action to be taken against county employees. They had no idea Harrah's was remodeling its properties because no permits were issued.
"If someone is going to get fired, it should be someone at Harrah's," Collins said. "We're not supposed to go into your bedrooms and kitchens and just start tearing apart walls."
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani directed Kessler International to recommend a timeframe in which the county should investigate a complaint once one has been filed.
The company will recommend new procedures to ensure property owners obtain the necessary permits and inspections when they embark on remodeling projects.
Most commissioners and county administrators have declined to say whether the county could have responded more efficiently to the safety concerns, reserving their comments until after the audit is completed. Kessler is expected to have a report to the county by the end of the year.
County Auditor Jerry Carroll, who recommended Kessler because it has no ties to the gaming industry in Las Vegas, said the company will interview deputy district attorneys who offered advice to the building department, Lynn, Frazzetta and the inspector who initially visited the properties after the complaint was filed.
Frazzetta attended Tuesday's meeting and offered his support for the audit. He said he has additional information about the remodeling work that he plans to provide to the auditors.
"I strongly suggest you give approval to look at what took place here," Frazzetta said.