LVCVA spending justifies creation of inspector general, lawmakers say

Excessive spending at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority highlights the need for a special agency to investigate financial abuse within state and local government, Democratic and Republican lawmakers say.

But a bill creating an inspector general’s office has stalled at the Nevada Legislature.

Three of the half-dozen lawmakers who co-sponsored Assembly Bill 404 have pointed to questions about spending by the publicly funded convention authority — uncovered by a Las Vegas Review-Journal story — while pushing for passage of the bill.

“The lavish spending of the LVCVA is a prime example of why we need the inspector general,” said Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, D-Las Vegas. “When you’re spending $697,000 on alcohol, $85,000 for showgirls, there needs to be some transparency in government.

“We need someone to have oversight. We have too many agencies like the LVCVA that are going unchecked.”

The figures cited by Fumo appeared in the story as examples of the convention authority’s misuse of public funds in its mission to lure tourists to the Las Vegas area. Revenue projections estimate the agency will receive $300 million in hotel room taxes for its operations in the 2018 fiscal year.

Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, shared Fumo’s opinion.

“The inspector general would be the ideal organization to check into the LVCVA’s spending,” he said. “If it were in place now, it could be working the issue already.”

Edwards, who pushed unsuccessfully for a similar bill in 2015, said the inspector general would “safeguard taxpayer dollars” and ensure that government agencies are doing their jobs correctly.

Another co-sponsor, Assemblyman William McCurdy II, D-Las Vegas, added: “Anytime you have an opportunity for oversight over the spending of public money, it is always a good idea.”

Edwards believes Democratic leaders have held up the bill in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

“It’s been sitting in Ways and Means for a while,” said Edwards, a member of the panel. “The probability of getting it out is probably less than 5 percent.”

Both Fumo and Assemblywoman Brittney Miller, D-Las Vegas, who introduced the bill, said they do not think Democratic leaders are holding it up. They expressed hope the Ways and Means Committee would have a hearing on the bill before the 2017 session ends on June 5.

In April, Miller distributed copies of the Review-Journal’s story at the Legislature as an example of the potential government waste the inspector general could examine.

In an interview this week, however, she downplayed the convention authority connection to the bill.

“It is not my intention to go after any one issue or agency,” she said, adding that she will reintroduce the measure at the next legislative session if it fails this year.

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, the panel’s vice chairman, did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Cost of office questioned

Several state agencies, including the governor’s office, have asked how much money is needed to fund the bill. The Ways and Means Committee would have to address the issue before the bill could move forward.

Miller estimated an independent inspector general’s office could cost taxpayers between $700,000 and $2 million a year, depending on the staffing levels.

“It’s a good government issue, and it definitely supports efficiency and transparency,” Miller said.

Curtis Kalin, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, said an inspector general would be an asset for Nevada taxpayers.

“I think the clear waste that was exposed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows the convention authority should be a prime target of the new inspector general,” he said.

In addition to the large amount of money spent on alcohol and showgirls over a three-year period, the newspaper’s story revealed that the authority shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars more for concert tickets, skyboxes, banquets, exotic car rides, trips for board members and jewelry for its employees.

In response to the newspaper’s findings, Rossi Ralenkotter, the authority’s president and CEO, defended the spending as part of the agency’s “relationship building” to attract tourists and stay ahead of its competition.

But Bill Noonan, the chairman of the authority’s audit committee, and John Lee, who heads the policy committee, said their panels will review some of the spending and potential policies noted in the newspaper story. Meetings are planned for later this summer.

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, which competes with the LVCVA-operated Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Review-Journal owns the domain lasvegas.com, which is subleased to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The sublease terminates Aug. 2.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com. Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com. Contact Brian Joseph at bjoseph@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JGermanRJ, @ArthurMKane and @bjoseph1 on Twitter.

Local
Working cats at St. John the Baptist Church
Parish councilmember John Koutsulis talks about the two cats St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church have adopted as part of a working cats program.
Lee Canyon snow makes skiers smile
Skiers and snow boarders took advantage of the Presidents Day holiday and the recent snowfall at Lee Canyon, outside of Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston gets fresh blanket of snow
A winter storm drops nearly four inches of fresh snow on Sunday, February 17, 2019 at Mount Charleston outside Las Vegas. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in the Las Vegas Valley
Snow accumulated in the Las Vegas Valley for the first time in more than a decade, with snow falling mostly in the western, northwestern and southern areas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review Journal) @bizutesfaye
Snow at US 95 and Lee Canyon Road
Passers-by pulled off Lee Canyon Road northwest of Las Vegas Monday to play in the fresh snow. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Road truck on an empty I-15
Snow and ice contributed to the closure of Interstate 15 near Primm. Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal
I-15 traffic diverted at St. Rose Parkway
The Nevada Highway Patrol has closed Interstate 15 in both directions between south Las Vegas and the California state line due to icy road conditions, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ice on roadway shuts down I-15 south of Las Vegas
An overnight snowstorm left an icy roadway, causing the Nevada Highway Patrol to shut down Interstate 15 south of Las Vegas to the California state line. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 closed at St. Rose Parkway
Ice on Interstate 15 caused the Nevada Highway Patrol to close the highway from St. Rose Parkway in south Las Vegas to the California state line on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driving a snowy Sunday night in Summerlin
Several inches of snow have fallen in Summerlin on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. This shows street conditions between Charleston and Far Hills in Summerlin. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Winter wonderland at Summerlin park
A snowstorm hit Fox Hill Park in Summerlin on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
February snowstorm in western Las Vegas
A snowstorm hit Summerlin and parts of western Las Vegas on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. (Jim Prather/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow in Summerlin
Snow near Far Hills and Fox Hill Drive.
Valentine's Day Brings Wet Weather To Las Vegas
Parts of the Las Vegas Valley received more than an inch of rain by 1 p.m. Thursday, triggering numerous vehicle accidents, sparking flooding and prompting at least two swift-water rescues in flood channels. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Artist sends love from the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
Artist Chris O'Rourke has a giant heart mounted in the back of pickup positioned for photos at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign on the Las Vegas Strip on Valentine's Day 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rain doesn't dampen weddings on Valentine's Day
Charolette Richards, owner of A Little White Wedding Chapel who has been performing weddings for 60 years, started Valentine’s Day 2019 by performing a wdding for Las Vegas couple David and Elaine Cook at the chapel’s Tunnel of Love drive-thru. Richards has over 100 weddings booked for Valentine’s Day. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Swift-water rescue in Las Vegas
The Clark County Fire Department rescued one person from the flooded Durango Wash in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rainy and soggy on Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day across the Las Vegas Valley will be soggy and wet. A flood advisory has been issued for Clark County. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Early morning rainfall in Las Vegas
The Las Vegas valley was hit with rainfall early Thursday morning. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Janelle Veith, Quest Academy principal, talks about her school success
Janelle Veith, Quest Academy principal, talks about her school success. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Learning how to create your own comic book
Jean Munson talks about the class she teaches at the Maximum Comics in Henderson on creating and publishing your own comic book.
Top Ladies of Distinction unveils second Las Vegas chapter
Officers Clair Hart and Rose Coker discuss the service organization’s work and mission.
The Animal Foundation Opens New Wing
On Tuesday, The Animal Foundation opened the doors to its new Engelstad Foundation Adoption center. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas firefighter skates from ice to fire
Darcy Loewen, a former pro hockey player, finds a new career as a North Las Vegas firefighter. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Carnival AirShip floats over Las Vegas
Carnival Cruise flew a blimp over the LAs Vegas Valley on Thursday in a promotion for its new Carnival Panorama ship. (Mat luschek/Review-Journal)
Pedestrian dies after crash at Decatur and Alta
Las Vegas police investigate a fatal crash that killed a pedestrian at Decatur Boulevard and Alta Driver about 6 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Star Wars Cosplayers Visit Sick Kids At Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center
Members of Coruscant Base, a Star Wars cosplay group, visit kids at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Hail and wet snow in Las Vegas
The western edges of Las Vegas saw some hail and wet snow on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Developer Jim Rhodes lists his mansion for $30 million
Jim Rhodes, a developer, has listed his mansion in Spanish Hills community for $30 million. The mansion is situated on 2 acres of land and features 19,345 square feet of living space. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Court ruling brings hope to local Vietnam veteran
Blue Water Navy Veteran Michael Yates talks about possible medical benefits he could receive after a federal court ruling this week. Yates claims he was exposed to Agent Orange and attributes that to his health problems, which include cancer.
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing