Supreme Court sides with Mayor Goodman

CARSON CITY -- The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman did not violate any ethics laws when he hosted a January 2004 party in Washington, D.C., on behalf of his son.

In a 7-0 ruling, the justices upheld a decision made last year by District Judge Mark Denton. Denton threw out a state Ethics Commission determination that the mayor violated a law preventing public officials from using their positions to secure unwarranted privileges for themselves or those with whom they have special interests, such as family members.

Goodman served as host at a cocktail party sponsored by his son Ross Goodman's company, iPolitix, during a U.S. Conference of Mayors convention. The Ethics Commission did not find the offense was "willful" and did not fine the mayor, but he considered the commission's finding a black mark on his record.

He was clearly pleased Tuesday evening that the courts had removed that black mark. "The only thing a father can leave behind is a good education for his children and a good name," he said in a telephone interview. "This decision, in some small way, goes toward that."

In their ruling, the justices said the Ethics Commission decision "simply ignores significant evidence" favorable to Goodman.

They noted the mayors conference had actively solicited presentations on new campaign technology. Goodman told his son about that request and Ross Goodman went through "all proper procedures" to make a presentation for his company, according to the court.

When a scheduling conflict forced cancellation of the iPolitix presentation, an organizer, not the mayor, suggested the company sponsor a cocktail party, the court stated.

The mayor already had been scheduled to host another cocktail party and "he merely agreed to host the iPolitix party since he was going to host one anyway," the court added.

The mayor distributed only four or five invitations to the party, spoke briefly and urged the audience to take iPolitix brochures, the decision read.

"In addition, Mayor Goodman mentioned he loved his son. This minimal conduct is not of the same significance that the commission has found to violate (state ethics laws)."

In other states where public officials have violated ethics law, the violations typically dealt with bribes or threats or misusing public funds, according to the court.

Members of the Ethics Commission could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The commission was to conduct hearings in Las Vegas today.

Last year in announcing the appeal of Denton's decision, Ethics Commission member Rick Hsu said the commission would be crippled if it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

"What would be our purpose if judges are going to substitute their own judgment for the Ethics Commission's judgment?" Hsu asked.

The commission currently lacks an executive director and is to interview applicants for the position Thursday in Southern Nevada and Friday in Reno.