Las Vegas tourism boss didn’t record dozens of vacation days

Updated August 14, 2018 - 6:01 am

Las Vegas tourism CEO Rossi Ralenkotter did not report nearly 200 hours of paid time off that he took while traveling on personal business using taxpayer-funded gift cards, records show.

He also did not log about 100 more hours noted on his calendar as “Rossi PTO” or personal trips such as attending his grandson’s graduation, records show.

If the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority paid out the untaken time off when Ralenkotter retires at the end of the month, it would be worth nearly $65,000 at Ralenkotter’s current salary.

But in response to a Review-Journal request for an interview about the topic, Ralenkotter said he declined about $190,000 in time off for untaken personal, sick or vacation days.

“I never expected to be compensated for my accrued paid time off, and such compensation is not contemplated in my retirement agreement,” he said in a written statement. “In fact, I have hundreds of hours of accrued paid time off which will go uncompensated. In plain terms, your inquiry is about a moot point.”

The questions about Ralenkotter’s failure to take time off for personal trips coincides with controversy about his use of gifts cards for personal travel, as well as concerns about the severance and consulting package the authority board is set to discuss Tuesday.

Despite Ralenkotter’s statement, LVCVA board member John Lee said the authority should delve into why Ralenkotter failed to report weeks of paid time off to ensure a full accounting of the issue.

“I think that his time should be audited and should be properly documented,” said Lee, the former chairman of the board’s policy committee.

Authority policy says unused time off “will be paid” when employees leave the agency depending on how long they worked there. Authority spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson pointed to the separation agreement that says Ralenkotter will not receive compensation for unused time off, but she did not respond to questions about when that provision was decided.

Frequent flyer

In April, auditors announced that the LVCVA secretly bought $90,000 in Southwest Airlines gift cards. The audit came amid an 18-month Review-Journal investigation questioning lavish spending at the taxpayer-funded agency, Ralenkotter’s use of convention security to chauffeur him to events and the airport and failure to track expensive gifts in the authority warehouse.

Staff used about $20,000 in gift cards for personal travel, the audit showed. Ralenkotter used nearly $17,000 of the cards to fly himself and family members on trips. His wife, daughter and son-in-law also took flights paid for with the gift cards.

Ralenkotter paid back the cost of the gift cards after auditors uncovered the spending. Metro Police are investigating the misuse of the cards. Last week, police said they have not found any wrongdoing on Ralenkotter’s part so far.

Ralenkotter’s statement said he did not take paid leave for trips he took to receive cancer treatment.

“I’m grateful to the board for allowing me the flexibility I sometimes needed in order to address my health concerns,” the statement said.

Ralenkotter did not take 64 hours of time off that were apparently for medical treatment.

But at least 168 hours were for trips to Chicago, Orange County and Phoenix. Public records show the Ralenkotters have adult children who live in those areas.

While much of the LVCVA board continues to support Ralenkotter, Lee and Bill Noonan, who chairs the audit committee and is a gaming executive, have expressed growing concerns about Ralenkotter’s management of the agency and use of LVCVA resources for himself and his family.

Personal trips

At least 10 of those personal flights occurred either partially or wholly during work hours, but Ralenkotter did not take time off for the trips.

The Review-Journal analysis of calendars, pay records and flight times shows there are 192 hours he should have taken during trips to Chicago; Burbank, California; Orange County, California; and Phoenix.

Ralenkotter noted personal trips or other time off in his calendar totaling about 112 hours but did not report the time as personal hours.

Lee said the failure to follow policies poses a broader problem.

“As the leader of the organization, your ethics and your morals determine how the rest of the company operates,” he said after the Review-Journal told him of Ralenkotter’s failure to report that paid time off. “We need to be sure the leadership of the LVCVA is following the same guidelines as everyone else. That’s how you run a successful taxpayer-funded organization.”

Vacation pay

Ralenkotter failed to disclose time off for 38 workdays. Those would be worth $64,370 based on his $211-an-hour salary if he had not decided to forgo the payments.

In 2016, Ralenkotter did not take any paid time off. Gift card flight records show he flew to Chicago on Sunday, April 24, with his wife, Mary Jo, and returned the following Sunday. Ralenkotter’s daughter lives in a Chicago suburb.

Ralenkotter and his wife also flew to Orange County and spent four days there after Independence Day. In June, Ralenkotter and his wife spent three days in Burbank, where he was receiving treatment for cancer.

Ralenkotter used LVCVA gift cards to pay for at least part of those trips. He did not apply any of that time to his accrued time off, records show.

Ralenkotter’s calendar notes that on Aug. 17, 2017, he flew to Phoenix, where his son lives, at 6 a.m. and returned at 6 p.m., apparently for the graduation of his grandson.

Christmas holidays are another time that raises substantial questions. Ralenkotter’s calendars say PTO from Dec. 21, 2017, through Jan. 3, 2018, but he did not put in for any of the time that wasn’t LVCVA holidays.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands Corp. operates the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0286. Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @ArthurMKane and @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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