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Case closed on claims of ex-legislator’s sex, drug addictions

Former state senator and county commissioner Mark James told people he would never settle the breach of contract case filed against him by his estranged close friend, Steve Kalish.

But his boss at Frias Holding Company, Phyllis Frias, had had enough. She decided it was time to settle, whether James wanted to or not.

Last week, the case was settled in principle, avoiding a lurid trial to start Oct. 9. The Kalish attorneys were prepared to drag James’ lively sex life with hookers into the public arena to prove Kalish secretly managed the cab and limousine company for two years. Why? Because of James’ alleged sex and drug addiction.

Phyllis Frias hired James as the CEO of the company in 2007 after the 2006 death of her husband, Charlie Frias, the company’s founder. He started his business with five cabs in North Las Vegas. Today, it has a fleet of more than 1,000 cabs and limousines serving Southern Nevada.

When Kalish sued in December 2009, he insisted he actually ran the company in 2007 and 2008 under a secret financial agreement with James, once considered gubernatorial material by the GOP.

Kalish, who once ran Republic Services and now operates disposal companies in Boulder City, sued James, the Mark James Family Trust and the Frias Holding Company.

The savvy and very private widow was never sued as an individual, but was expected to testify as a witness. It wouldn’t have been pleasant.

However, she showed up with her own attorney, John Mowbray, at the settlement conference mediated by District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, and a settlement was reached.

I doubt Kalish got the $29 million he wanted.

When Phyllis Frias previously gave James 48 percent of the company stock worth an estimated $300 million, Kalish wanted his 20 percent.

When he didn’t get it, he filed his breach of contract case contending that on top of the $3.4 million he already has received over the two years, he was entitled to $29 million more.

Like most settlements, the figures won’t become public information.

Kalish attorney Todd Bice said: “I can’t tell you squat. I can confirm it’s been settled. The terms are confidential.”

Mowbray, in a formal press statement, said, “As a result of a recent court facilitated settlement proceeding, all claims made by a former consultant against Frias Holding Company Chief Executive Officer Mark James and the company have been resolved.”

I wondered why it took so long to settle, when so much came out harming James’ reputation. Not just the tawdry sex stuff that belied the married man’s straight-arrow image, but the damage to his legal reputation.

District Judge Mark Denton agreed with Discovery Commissioner Thomas Biggar that James, an attorney himself, had been deceitful and destroyed documents during the pretrial discovery process. Denton sanctioned James for displaying “a pattern of fraud.”

Biggar wrote he’d never seen misconduct and discovery abuses of this magnitude.

Had this politician with the dark movie-star good looks been a hypocrite as a state senator?

Phone records from October 2006 through August 2009 showed James was communicating with prostitutes nearly daily, according to Kalish attorney James Pisanelli.

As a senator representing northwest Las Vegas between 1992 and 2002, James opposed escort ads, saying they were fronts for illegal prostitution and he didn’t want his young children exposed to such filth.

James went through a slew of lawyers, including Dennis Kennedy, who went from defending him to saying he had discovered potentially criminal and/or fraudulent violations by James.

Even after all this and more, James didn’t want to settle.

Phyllis Frias, the sensible one, forced his hand.

For the sake of James’ now tarnished and pathetic reputation, she should have forced it long ago.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison.

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