Former employee alerts state OSHA

Fred Frazzetta went from a temporary worker on the Rio remodeling project in spring 2005 to a full-time maintenance employee at Harrah's Las Vegas to an ex-employee who today views the resorts' parent company, Harrah's Entertainment, as a personal adversary.

In summer 2006, while still employed at Harrah's Las Vegas, Frazzetta deliberately brought himself to the attention of his bosses. He blew the whistle on the resort for exposing workers to asbestos in a remodeling project, and then openly admitted it in an e-mail to a superior.

His alert led a state agency, Nevada's OSHA, which is short for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to investigate.

The agency fined the resort $11,550 for 16 serious violations and two other violations connected to the incident, according to an OSHA report issued Aug. 15, 2006.

Around the same time Frazzetta, an electrician, also reported his employer to Clark County Development Services for remodeling on the 15th floor of a Harrah's guest tower without a permit.

The resort did obtain a permit after the work was started, but before it was completed. The electrician says that experience opened his eyes to the concept that certain safety steps -- including fire caulking -- might have been missed in the remodeling of the Rio's Ipanema tower.

While still employed at Harrah's, the electrician started asking questions about the Rio project. He says he took the topic to executives but claims his concerns fell on deaf ears.

Jan Jones, a senior vice president for Harrah's Entertainment, declined to listen to a list of Frazzetta's overtures, citing a pending corporate investigation into whether the remodeling project proceeded without proper permits and safety inspections. Harrah's has routed all Review-Journal interview requests to Jones. She expressed concern about the newspaper publishing uncorroborated statements from workers.

• In August 2006, Frazzetta said Michael Whitehead, a manager, told him verbally that Gary Loveman, chief executive officer of Harrah's Entertainment, wanted Frazzetta and a supervisor at the time, Tom Adams, to "settle things" regarding Frazzetta's whistle-blowing.

• In December 2006, Frazzetta called a Harrah's Entertainment employee hot line, run by a company called Global Compliance, to log his complaint about possible building-code violations in the Rio remodel.

• On April 9, Frazzetta met with Don Marrandino, president of Harrah's Las Vegas and the Flamingo. The electrician brought materials in order to support his suspicions about work done at the Rio without permits but said Marrandino cut him off and told him, "I don't want to raise my right hand in court." The worker provided copies of an e-mail exchange with Marrandino about the meeting to support his claim that it took place.

• Frazzetta said that on May 24, he met at Caesars Palace with a Harrah's Entertainment corporate investigator to air several topics, including the Rio remodeling. Again, he provided e-mails of the exchanges to set up the meeting.

Frazzetta was terminated by Harrah's Las Vegas in June after a guard caught him leaving, after his work shift, with company property. In his possession he had about $15 worth of company-owned fluorescent bulbs as well as an unauthorized copy of a recent workplace safety report on Caesars Palace, which also is owned by Harrah's Entertainment.

A higher-ranking maintenance employee at Harrah's Las Vegas gave him the report, Frazzetta said. He also claimed he got verbal permission, but forgot to obtain a written "backdoor pass," to borrow the bulbs so he could do a comparison of bulb types in his girlfriend's father's kitchen.

Neither Adams, Loveman nor Whitehead could be reached for comment on this story.