HOA member calls response of state ombudsman’s office ‘inept’

In the glorified regulatory storefront operation called Nevada, Park Avenue condominium dwellers found they had a place to complain after they identified examples of apparent election fraud on their homeowners’ association board.

It’s a part of the Real Estate Division called the Office of the Ombudsman For Owners In Common-Interest Communities And Condominium Hotels. Surely that title alone strikes fear in the hearts of scofflaws.

By definition an ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints. The independent voice for the little guy, that’s an ombudsman.

At least, that’s the idea.

With condominium associations across Southern Nevada reporting suspicious activity involving HOA board elections and the amazing ability of the Silver Lining Construction Co. and select litigators to gain access to millions of dollars in construction defect claims, the brewing trouble wasn’t exactly a secret. When attorneys scored a $19 million settlement from Rhodes Homes in a construction defect case at Vistaña this year, the suspicions reached new heights.

In Park Avenue’s case, the state office of the ombudsman rode to the rescue like the rocking horse cavalry.

On May 29, former board President Lee Lahargoue filed a fact-filled affidavit with the ombudsman calling for an intervention after apparent voter fraud was found in the April 24 HOA board election. In a letter dated July 29, Compliance/Audit Investigator II Steve Urbanetti delivered a response:

“The Division has completed the investigation on the above referenced case and has taken the action it feels is appropriate.

“Thank you for your assistance in investigating these matters. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.”

Attempts by concerned Park Avenue homeowners to find what, if any, “action” the ombudsman’s office thought was “appropriate” thus far have been unsuccessful.

But, hey, it’s only October.

Now that the FBI and Metro have served search warrants in their investigation of possible election rigging and kickbacks involving construction defect contractors and litigators, the Park Avenue homeowners’ concerns are departing the civil and entering the criminal realm. The ombudsman can relax in the grandstands.

Just what did Lahargoue and his fellow homeowners discover?

For one, a sudden and remarkable interest in the April HOA board election by absentee homeowners. At Park Avenue, the HOA is managed by Platinum Community Services LLC, which is also mentioned in law enforcement documents.

“Elections in the past got maybe 100, 110 votes,” resident Tom Seablom said. “This past one had over 300.”

On April 15, 11 ballots from homeowners living in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Modesto and Melbourne, Fla., arrived with a Long Beach postmark. On April 21, 11 more ballots from homeowners living in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and even South Lake Tahoe arrived at the Platinum offices with that same Long Beach postmark.

On April 22, at least 66 envelopes were mailed to Platinum from local homeowners postmarked from the same Las Vegas post office.

A check of 10 absentee ballots revealed a disturbing trend: None of the out-of-state owners interviewed recalled casting a ballot.

“If you have any documentation that either of us have voted,” absentee condo owner Barbara Lieberman wrote Lahargoue, “then that was done without our knowledge or consent.”

Evidence of ballot stuffing was overwhelming. At least one of the board members elected that day, former Metro Capt. Frank Sutton, has just a 1 percent stake in a condo unit and has direct ties to a central figure in the investigation, Silver Lining Construction owner Leon Benzer.

So far, concerned board members and homeowners have managed to keep Silver Lining from doing repair work on the property despite the efforts of the company’s allies. Homeowners obtained a temporary restraining order and are attempting to remove Sutton and HOA president Edward Lugo of Los Angeles from the HOA board. The controversy didn’t prevent a Silver Lining representative from attempting to enter the development Wednesday, HOA Vice President Barbara Noto said.

Meanwhile, Department of Business and Industry spokeswoman Elisabeth Shurtleff on Friday cited confidentiality laws in declining to elaborate about what, if any, action was taken.

“Although a complainant may not know what action was taken, it does not mean that no action was taken by the Real Estate Division,” she said.

Lahargoue and friends aren’t buying it.

“If we had gone with the ombudsman, Silver Lining would have been in here,” Lahargoue said. “We would have been in the same state that Vistaña’s in. The ombudsman is totally inept in all this.”

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Thunder Mountain monument stands as a tribute to Native American culture
Caretaker Fred Lewis talks about Thunder Mountain monument in central Nevada, made from concrete and found items. The five-acre site is a tribute to Native Peoples of the West. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New CCSD superintendent Jesus F. Jara aims for 1st in the nation
On his third day as Clark County School District superintendent, Jesus F. Jara talks about his vision for the future during a visit to Del Sol Academy of the Performing Arts on Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Ceremony Recognizes Refugee Students, Graduates
Rosy Mibulano, a graduate of Las Vegas High School who came to America from the Congo in 2015, was recognized in a ceremony for refugee students in Clark County. Like many other students relocated to Las Vegas from countries around the world, Rosy had a challenging high school experience, from learning English to adjusting to American customs and taking care of her family. On top of that, she wants to go to school to become a nurse so she can take care of her mother, who suffers from diabetes. The annual Refugee Recognition Ceremony celebrates the enormous lengths these young adults go through to create a new life for themselves. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Water leak at Mandalay Bay convention center
The convention center area of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas experienced major flooding Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Melinda Cook
Hollywood Memorabilia Up For Grabs at Las Vegas Auction
Elvis Presley's car, Marilyn Monroe's bras, Han Solo's blaster, and Jerry Lewis's "Nutty Professor" suit are just some of the items that are up for auction at Julien's Auctions at Planet Hollywood June 22 and 23. The auction's viewing room at Planet Hollywood is open to the public 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Saturday at Planet Hollywood. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Springs Preserve Exhibit Shows Off "Nature's Ninjas"
"Nature's Ninjas" arrives at the Springs Preserve, in an exhibit and live show featuring critters that come with natural defenses, from armadillos to snakes, poison dart frogs to scorpions and tarantulas (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CrossRoads of Southern Nevada psychiatric urgent care to open in Las Vegas
Jeff Iverson, who operates the nonprofit sober living facility Freedom House, is opening a private addiction treatment center that will operate a detoxification center and transitional living for substance users trying to recover. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser gives update of officer-involved shooting
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser provides an update about an officer-involved shooting at Radwick Drive and Owens Avenue in the northeast Las Vegas on Thursday. A robbery suspect was shot and killed. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Wayne Newton surprises burglars
Wayne Newton and his wife, Kathleen, arrived at their southeast Las Vegas home shortly before midnight on Wednesday to find two burglars inside their house. The burglars fled and were seen heading north through the property. Las Vegas police quickly set up a perimeter and launched an extensive search of the area, but the suspects were able to escape. It was unclear if the burglars got away with anything of value. Several items, under the watchful eyes of the police, were seen on the ground near the home's main driveway. Neither Newton, nor his wife, were injured. The Newtons were not available for comment.
Police Officers Turn Off Body Cameras
In four separate body camera videos from the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting released Wednesday, officers in a strike team are instructed to turn their body cameras off and comply with the request.
Debra Saunders reports from Singapore
Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent talks about the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.
How long will North Korea's denuclearization take?
In Singapore, Las Vegas Review-Journal White House correspondent Debra Saunders asks President Donald Trump how long North Korea's denuclearization will take. White House video.
LVCVA purchase of gift cards hidden
A former LVCVA executive hid the purchase of $90,000 in Southwest Airlines gift cards in records at the agency. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, said the money was for promotional events and did not disclose that it was for gift cards. Lawson also instructed Southwest employees to submit invoices without mentioning the purchases were for the cards. More than $50,000 of the cards cannot be accounted for. The convention authority is publicly funded . Lawson recently resigned.
Kim Jong Un visits Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his entourage visited the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore briefly Monday night, local time. (Video by Philip Chope)
Coca-Cola Bottle Purse Has 9,888 Diamonds
Designer Kathrine Baumann and jeweler Aaron Shum set the Guinness World Record for most diamonds (9,888) set on a handbag. The Coca Cola bottle-shaped purse was on display at the Coca Cola Store on the Strip. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sentosa Island a pleasure resort with a pirate past
The site of Tuesday's U.S.-North Korea summit is known for theme parks and resorts. But before that, it was known as a pirate island. (Debra Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Judge Sandra Pomrenze's comment about girl's hair
Nevada Races Full of Women From Both Sides
It's already been a historic election season for women in politics. Record numbers of women are running for political office all over the country - including Nevada. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
East Las Vegas home damaged by fire
Clark County Fire Department crews responded to a house fire in east Las Vegas Thursday morning. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
911 call: Mom tries to get to son shot at Route 91
A woman stuck on the interstate during the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, tries to get to her son. 911 call released by Las Vegas police.
Las Vegas 911 caller reports people shot on Oct. 1
A 911 caller on Oct. 1, 2017, reports several people shot at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.
911 call from woman under stage in Las Vegas shooting
A 911 call from a woman underneath the stage at the Route 91 Harvest festival during the Oct. 1, 2017, Las Vegas shooting.
LVCVA facing scandal over gift cards
LVCVA is facing a growing scandal over airline gift cards. LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest Airline gift cards between 2012 and 2017. Now auditors can’t account for more than $50,000 of the cards. CEO Rossi Ralenkotter and his family used $16,207 in gift cards on 56 trips. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, was responsible for buying and distributing the cards. He recently resigned.
Siblings separated in the foster care system get a day together
St. Jude's Ranch for Children and Cowabunga Bay Cares program partnered to bring 75 siblings together for the day to play on the water slides and in the pools at the Henderson water park. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People flee the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Las Vegas police released footage from a camera on Mandalay Bay of the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017
Aaliyah Inghram awarded medal of courage
Aaliyah Inghram, a 10-year-old girl who was shot while protecting her 18-month-old brother and 4-year-old cousin during a shooting on May 8, awarded medal of courage. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Las Vegans Pack Public Lands Open House
A crowd filled the Clark County Library conference room Tuesday afternoon where Clark County officials hold their first -- and possibly only -- public meeting on plans to open almost 39,000 acres of federal land for development just outside the Las Vegas metropolitan area. County commissioners are set to vote June 19 on a potentially controversial resolution seeking federal legislation that would set aside tens of thousands of acres for conservation while giving Nevada’s largest community more room to grow. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like