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Barlow investigation highlights flaws in Nevada financial disclosure requirements

In his nine years on the Las Vegas City Council, Ricki Barlow disclosed debt just once, in 2014.

The next year, poof, it was gone.

Now Barlow is being investigated by the FBI in connection with campaign contributions to his 2015 re-election campaign.

The FBI’s probe of Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow offers a good opportunity to remind the public that Nevada’s financial disclosure statements are useless. The public can see that Barlow’s 2014 debt was owed to Nelnet, a student loan repayment company. But we can’t see the amount owed.

The reports are not required to list his total income or the amount of debt, so it’s impossible to see whether the Ward 5 councilman was living beyond his means.

In the fall of 2015, Barlow entered a specialized, part-time MBA program at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. The program is taught once a month, on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Presidents and Key Executives program is offered through Pepperdine’s school of business and management. Pepperdine’s website described itself as a Christian-based school focusing on “ethical leadership and corporate social responsibility.”

How Barlow’s paying for it or how much it costs is unclear.

City spokesman David Riggleman said Barlow has not asked the city for any reimbursement and would qualify for a maximum of $5,250 per year if he does.

Barlow’s political career began in 2004, when he ran for Assembly District 1. He lost. At that time, he worked for the city of Las Vegas as a liaison. He listed no business interests, no other real estate besides his modest home and no gifts valued at more than $200.

He has never listed receiving reportable gifts.

In 2007, he ran for the City Council Ward 5 seat vacated by Lawrence Weekly. This time, Barlow won.

His base salary then was $45,410. Now it’s $75,000.

In 2011, he won re-election.

In 2015, the time period the FBI is investigating, he won his third and final term. He reported raising $398,178 and spending $361,762.

Barlow, 44, has listed a variety of sources of income and business interests during his years as a city councilman.

The councilman in 2014 had income from five sources: his $70,000 council salary, his wife’s income, ITT Technical Institute, Guard Force LLC and his own company, the Allegiant Business Development LLC, formed in 2011. Searches of business license records in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County show no licenses for the company, which is a continuing source of his income.

Over the years, other sources of income listed are BlackVegasTours.com and Personal Appraisal Company. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, he had income from ITT Technical Institute, which closed its campuses in early September.

He was a director for the now-dissolved Duncan Edwards Townhomes, started in 2010 and dissolved in 2016. His other partners there were a who’s who of people primarily tied to the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, which has faced allegations of poor management and questionable contracts for decades.

In his 2016 report covering 2015, Barlow lists a salary of $75,000 and two sources of income: the city and Allegiant Business Development. No debt is listed for Barlow or his wife. Her previous debt to Visa and ACS is also gone.

He lists his home, at 6104 Blossom Knoll Ave., and a rental property at 3790 Timberlake Drive in Las Vegas.

However, neither residence can be found through an online search. Under state law, his wife, who works for federal pretrial services, is allowed to remove their address from the Clark County recorder’s and assessor’s online records for safety reasons. How much he paid for those two houses isn’t public.

Barlow is not chatting with reporters since the FBI interviewed him, seized his computer and subpoenaed city records in September. The investigation is focusing on allegations including violations of the “honest services” law and mail and wire fraud.

Barlow “doesn’t believe he did anything wrong,” said his attorney, Richard Wright.

Nevada is vague in its reports. It doesn’t require public officials to list the value of their assets and debts — not even a real dollar range, as federal reports require.

Don’t you want to know if the people representing you are drowning in debt?

Jane Ann Morrison’s column runs Thursdays. Leave messages for her at 702-383-0275 or email jmorrison@reviewjournal.com. Find her on Twitter: @janeannmorrison

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