Eyebrows arched when Henderson Police Chief Richard Perkins, the former speaker of the Assembly, formed a consulting company called RDP Strategies.
The potential for conflict was great. In a Nevada political climate dripping with outright corruption and shoddy ethics, Perkins’ decision was bound to generate skepticism.
Add to that the fact the chief, who served 14 years in the Nevada Assembly and still spends plenty of time on official business at the Legislature, has refused to disclose his client list, and you have a recipe for suspicion. Although he boasts of many contacts in Carson City, Perkins isn’t a registered paid lobbyist. His chief’s salary is $157,276.
That suspicion only increased recently when I learned Perkins was in Carson City in March chatting up legislators about the wonders of an X-ray machine capable of scanning 18-wheelers for drugs, explosives and people. Developed by American Science and Engineering, and distributed in Nevada by ASysco Technology, the machines would be installed at highway ports of entry that would be constructed if Assembly Bill 374 becomes law.
When Perkins handed state Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, a full-color ASysco brochure highlighting the X-ray machine’s usefulness, some people might have suspected the police chief was lobbying.
But Nolan downplayed the interaction that unfolded during a lunch with separate checks in which Perkins extolled the technology’s virtues but wanted to make clear that he was not lobbying the senator.
Not officially, anyway.
Was he merely providing Nolan helpful information?
When I called Perkins about his relationship with ASysco, he enthused about the company’s product but stated unequivocally that he didn’t benefit in the least way. Nothing, nada. Not a nickel.
He said he had only the safety of the state and his community in mind when he flashed the brochure.
How did he learn about the company?
From attorneys Tony Sanchez and Joe Brown, who represent ASysco. Coincidentally, Sanchez is the resident agent for Perkins’ RDP Strategies, a limited liability company.
Perkins said he visited American Science in the fall while he was in Boston for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He came away so impressed with the product that he wasn’t shy about sharing the information with Nolan.
Although Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera is the official sponsor of AB374, Perkins admitted Monday he was responsible for submitting the bill draft request to his friend. That means he not only pushed for the bill draft, but he pushed for the product, all out of a desire for homeland security.
Perkins also attended a hearing in March in which AB374’s merits, and the possible use of the X-ray machines at the proposed ports of entry, were discussed. If approved, the bill would mandate four ports of entry, two each on Interstate 15 and Interstate 80. Each port of entry could cost at least $44.5 million, according to an estimate provided to the Legislature by the state Department of Transportation.
ASysco would provide its X-ray machines at no charge, but would be compensated from the fees paid by trucks and other vehicles. The Associated Press recently reported the equipment is capable of scanning up to 20,000 trucks a day.
At Oceguera’s request, Perkins said he also helped arrange for law enforcement officials to testify at the hearing.
Perkins, 45, also said he spoke to Gov. Jim Gibbons and first lady Dawn Gibbons about the port of entry issue in December. The police chief said the governor “seemed somewhat interested.”
But Gibbons has pledged not to raise taxes, and the port of entry bill is likely to have difficulty rising to the top of legislative priority lists despite Oceguera’s backing and Perkins’ helpful hints. It’s been ridiculed by trucking companies.
A valid argument can be made for increased security — if not on our national borders, then at least on our state lines. But that’s a conversation for another day.
Today’s topic is a police chief’s intriguing side consulting business and his apparent endorsement of the ASysco Technology product.
He toured the company, is friends with its local lawyers, showed a legislator a company brochure, requested enabling legislation be drafted and arranged for law enforcement officials to testify on that legislation’s behalf.
If, after all that effort, Chief/consultant Richard Perkins isn’t on retainer to ASysco, maybe he should be.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0295.JOHN L. SMITHMORE COLUMNSDiscuss this column in the eForums!