The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority moved forward Tuesday with a $10 million police substation expansion despite an ongoing police investigation of the tourism agency.
In a unanimous vote, the LVCVA board sidestepped conflict of interest concerns raised by legal experts and approved a measure that allows the convention authority to select a company to oversee design and construction of the expansion project. The substation sits on authority property at Swenson Street and Sierra Vista Drive.
Steve Hill, the authority’s CEO, told board members the tax-funded agency expects to begin construction by April.
Before the vote, there was no discussion about the conflict questions related to the LVCVA and the Metropolitan Police Department. For the past 10 months, police have been looking at alleged misuse and theft of Southwest Airlines gift cards bought by the authority.
“I think public safety and making sure we have a Metro presence here is cause for great news articles, not twisting things around,” said Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore, who has come under fire for taking a series of international trips at taxpayer expense as a board member.
The Review-Journal reported in March that Rossi Ralenkotter, the authority’s former CEO, pushed for the substation expansion after he became a target of the police investigation over his use of $17,000 in gift cards for personal travel. Ralenkotter paid back the money, but denied criminal wrongdoing.
While at the helm, Ralenkotter arranged a meeting with Sheriff Joe Lombardo to discuss providing $10 million in tourism funds to the project, and he participated in the meeting with other LVCVA officials after he retired and began consulting for the convention authority, records showed.
LVCVA officials on Tuesday reaffirmed their contention that the expansion is needed to help accommodate the hiring of more Metro officers on the Strip.
The convention authority built the police substation in 2008 for $17 million and then leased it to police to help protect the resort corridor.
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 & Convention Center, which competes with the LVCVA-operated Las Vegas Convention Center.