LVCVA leader Rossi Ralenkotter should address scandals

In a 15-minute address at the end of Tuesday’s Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board meeting, CEO Rossi Ralenkotter listed the reasons he’s going to retire.

Before he leaves — a date has not yet been set — he should consider talking to the public about the things that could mar the perception of who he is and of the LVCVA, which is funded by room taxes and convention center facility charges. The LVCVA is arguably the most successful destination marketing organization ever created.

The Review-Journal recently reported that Ralenkotter used $17,152 in Southwest Airlines gift cards, purchased by the LVCVA with taxpayer dollars, for personal travel for himself and his family. Ralenkotter so far has declined media interviews.

Ralenkotter has worked for the LVCVA for more than 45 years and took over as president and CEO in 2004.

While in the driver’s seat, he oversaw the most successful destination marketing program ever conceived, “What happens here, stays here.”

Ralenkotter explained to the board that when he took over that job from Manny Cortez, he went to work on a vision plan to guide the agency’s future. That plan, he said, would assure that Las Vegas would remain the No. 1 tourism destination in the country and the best place in North America to hold a convention.

Unfortunately, shortly after taking the helm, the Great Recession forced the vision plan to be put on hold. Ralenkotter said one of his greatest achievements was not laying off a single employee during the recession and helping keep the local tourism industry afloat during a traumatic time.

In 2010, he faced personal turmoil, a cancer diagnosis. Ralenkotter spoke more about that Tuesday than he ever has.

“It changes who you are, what you are and where you’re going,” he told the board. “I had to reassess my future with my family.”

He disclosed that he had five surgeries and a ministroke and is still administered chemotherapy.

“Despite what some people may say, you’re never cancer-free once you have it,” he said. “Once it’s in your system, it can come back. The best thing you have is to be in remission.”

Ralenkotter said the best advice he got came from his wife, Mary Jo, who made a rare appearance in attending Tuesday’s meeting.

She recommended he return to work where his passion for promoting Las Vegas is nonstop.

So back to work he went.

He withstood a bid from Orlando, Florida, to steal the National Finals Rodeo. He helped engineer a second NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway each year, the first of which will take place in September. He helped rally the local resort community to prevent the International Council of Shopping Centers from moving its annual RECon trade show to Orlando.

Through the LVCVA’s relationship with McCarran International Airport, Ralenkotter’s team recruited 1.2 million new passenger seats, a 75 percent increase, in eight years.

His sales team has booked 477 conventions in Las Vegas through 2023. That will bring 17.4 million people to Las Vegas, resulting in an economic impact of $25.1 billion on the community.

Ralenkotter saved the biggest announcement of his presentation for the end: The National Association of Home Builders will make the Las Vegas Convention Center its permanent home. That is 60,000 conventioneers coming to Las Vegas annually. Ralenkotter first made contact to bring the association to Las Vegas in 1974. He established a deal with the organization to meet in Las Vegas, alternating with Orlando. The organization will be back in Las Vegas in 2019 and 2020, but as of 2026, the nation’s largest homebuilding organization won’t be anywhere but here.

Four years ago, Ralenkotter said he recognized the need to develop a succession plan for his eventual departure. Earlier this year, Steve Hill, previously the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, was hired as president and chief operating officer.

Ralenkotter didn’t say when he would retire. And he didn’t address the most recent scandal involving his personal use of Southwest Airlines gift cards. He since has paid back the amount used back.

Now, it’s time for Ralenkotter to think about the questions the public has. Over the past year, the Review-Journal has reported that Ralenkotter used taxpayer-funded LVCVA security officers as chauffeurs despite receiving a vehicle allowance. The Review-Journal also found that the LVCVA has a history of routinely violating its own expense policies with lavish spending on high-end entertainment, gifts for employees and first-class trips overseas for board members.

Auditors don’t believe Ralenkotter was even aware that the gift cards he and his family used for personal travel were purchased. But even if they were given to the LVCVA as part of a promotion, he should have known better. More than $50,000 in gift cards are unaccounted for.

Now that Ralenkotter has apologized and paid back the gift card travel, he needs to explain what happened so that it never occurs again.

Otherwise, all the great things he has done for Las Vegas will be muddied by the few things he might have done wrong during a great career.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
MGM Grand Plans To Add Retail And Dining To Its Strip Facade
MGM Grand President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Sibella said executives are “discussing redeveloping that entire frontage of the building out to the Las Vegas Strip.” (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Boyd Gaming planning new corporate campus
Casino operator Boyd Gaming Corp. has filed plans to build a new corporate campus. The plans call for two 10-story office buildings and a six-level parking garage in the southwest Las Vegas Valley. Boyd Gaming operates The Orleans, the Suncoast, downtown's California Hotel and other properties. The new headquarters would be just a mile from its current main office building.
Bellagio Conservatory transformed to celebrate Year of the Pig
The Bellagio Conservatory Team transformed the 14,000 square foot conservatory to commemorate Chinese New Year, the holiday that marks the end of the coldest days of winter. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Intro uses sound to connect people
Intro, a startup that is part of the Future Worlds Accelerator in the UK, has an app that uses ultrasonic sound to find people and companies nearby.
CES 2019 Video: CES wraps up another year
Time-lapse video of the action at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Create your own beauty products
Beauty Mix by BeautyByMe is a product that lets you create your own cosmetics and beauty products. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Picobrew’s home brew machine
Picobrew brings automation to homebrewing. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Surviving CES
What it's like to spend four days working the mammoth tech convention. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Haier’s smart home
Haier presented smart home technology at CES 2019.
CES 2019 VIDEO: Foldimate makes laundry day easy
Foldimate has created a machine that will fold your laundry for you. Just feed it anything you need folded and it will do the rest. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Opte device corrects skin spots
Opte from Proctor and Gamble is a device for correcting spots and freckles from skin. It analyzes the area for spots and then covers them with a serum of matching skin tone. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Circa hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas unveiled
Derek Stevens reveals Circa hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas. He plans open by the end of 2020. (K.M Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Circa, new casino coming to Fremont Street
Casino owner Derek Stevens announces his new property Circa, coming to Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas in late 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dreenk My Oeno makes wine suggestions
At CES 2019 in Las Vegas, the Dreenk My Oeno tells you all about wine.
Polaroid One Step Plus camera unveiled at CES 2019
Polaroid has moved into the digital age with its One Step Plus camera with Bluetooth. With the connected app, it turns your smartphone into a remote for the camera, along with filters and features.
Amazon is everywhere at CES 2019 in Las Vegas
Seemingly everything works with Amazon Alexa
LG Smart Mirror helps you dress snazzy
LG’s Smart Mirror is less of a mirror but more of an assistant to help get you looking snazzy. It takes your image and recommends clothes for you or matches existing clothes with new clothes, which can be purchased right from the mirror. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Underwater robots make waves at CES 2019 in Las Vegas
Robosea is a company dedicated to underwater robotics. They produce consumer robots for underwater filming as well as commercial products which can be used for underwater research. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019 - Victrola record players spin in Las Vegas
A new spin on an old favorite, Victrola record players are meeting a demand for retro products. The brand is also making furnitures with built-in speakers.
CES 2019: Slamtec robots ready to serve
Slamtec is a robotics company out of China whose goal is to provide solutions for laser localization mapping and navigation. They have created two autonomous robots that can be used in areas such as bars, restaurants and malls. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mixologiq drink maker appears at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.
This is the Mixologiq drink maker.
CES 2019: Veritable smart garden
Let’s face it; not all of us have green thumbs. And herbs are particularly difficult to grow, considering their constant need for sunshine. Enter the Veritable smart garden from Exky, which does it all for you. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas being sold to developer
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas is being sold to a developer, set to close in March. Bonnie Springs, west of Las Vegas off State Route 159 — next to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park — spans more than 60 acres and was on the market for $31 million. The developer and his project partner are under contract to buy the ranch and plan to chop it up mostly into custom-home lots. The plans includes a 25-room motel, a restaurant and a 5,400-square-foot event barn.
Bone-conduction headphones form Aftershokz
Aftershokz offers bone-conduction headphones - headphones that don’t go in the ear.
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Autonomous Cars and Futuristic Aircraft Rule CES
Day two of CES was dominated by autonomous cars and futuristic aircraft in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
TekNekSavr fights neck problems caused by smart phones
Atiya Syverson invented the TekNekSavr to help fight neck and head problems caused by strains while typing on smart phones. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New eyeglasses know if you fall and call for help
The French company Abeye has created eye glasses that will detect if the wearer falls and call for help. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Company that creates vibrator-like device claims genders bias against CES
Lora DiCarlo is a women-run start-up that creates a vibrator-like device designed for female pleasure called the Osé. This year they were awarded the CES Innovation Award in the Robotics and Drone Category, but a month later the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, rescinded the award and their booth. Haddock and her team believe it is a reflection of gender bias and sexism in an industry with a long history of male domination.
CES-Wagz has new pet products
Wagz has three new products to help create better lives for your pets in a digital world. One is a collar with LTE tracking and an HD camera. Also a smart pet door that only lets your pet in and out. Lastly, a device to humanely keep Fluffy out of certain areas of your home. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like