Commissioner sees no conflict going to bat for bus company

In a battle over big bucks and a bus contract, Veolia Transportation recently hired Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins to consult and lobby on its behalf.

It was a short-lived relationship.

On Friday, a day after I interviewed Collins about it and quizzed him about conflicts, he quit, saying, “They don’t need me and I don’t need them.”

Yet even after quitting, Collins sees absolutely nothing wrong about working for Veolia, which approached him about a month ago. “I think I am staying on an ethical path.”

However, Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler, Mesquite Councilman Kraig Hafen and Henderson Councilwoman Debra March all told me it made them “uncomfortable” when Collins, clearly identifying himself as a consultant for Veolia, called to set up meetings to lobby them on Veolia’s behalf.

“I let him know I had some reservations,” Tobler said.

Hafen, who spoke briefly with Collins about the bus contract after a town hall meeting Wednesday in Mesquite, said, “I see it as a potential problem” to be lobbied by Collins.

Hafen warned Collins it was a bad idea, saying, “You’re going to get your foot caught in the stirrup with this and you’re going to get drug.”

Collins’ answer: “All they had to say is: ‘I don’t want to meet with you.’ ”

Sure, they could have snubbed a county commissioner who votes on issues and grants involving their communities. Sure.

Addressing Hafen’s concerns, Collins noted he was relatively new to politics. “Maybe he needs to listen to both sides.” The county commissioner questions whether Hafen would have been so concerned if Collins had been lobbying for First Transit.

Collins is not on the Regional Transportation Commission, which has tied 4-4 over whether Veolia or First Transit should receive a seven-year fixed bus route contract worth $600 million.

Clark County Commissioners Larry Brown and Chris Giunchigliani are on the RTC board and have voted against First Transit, the lower bidder by $50 million, with Las Vegas City Council members Steve Ross and Lois Tarkanian. Collins said he wouldn’t lobby his fellow county commissioners because that would be a conflict.

But there is no need to. They have voted in ways favoring Veolia repeatedly.

Tobler, March, Hafen and North Las Vegas Councilman Robert Eliason — who didn’t return Collins’ call or mine — all voted to give the contract to First Transit.

Pointing out that the four who have voted for Veolia’s interests are urban politicians and the others are mostly rural, Collins said, “The urban folks may understand the issue more than the other folks.”

Collins wrote Friday, “I was asked to help Veolia find out why there appeared to be a disconnect between them and the rural RTC board members. Because they felt I was familiar with rural issues in Clark County. This was always about helping them reach out to rural Clark County. This was never meant to be about me, or the RTC vote.”

Collins is deluding himself. Of course it was about the RTC vote.

His original decision to lobby for Veolia showed bad judgment on the part of both Collins and Veolia. The whole thing smelled like month-old garbage in 110-degree heat.

Before quitting, Collins set up meetings with three of the four elected officials but canceled them Wednesday. Veolia told him to cancel after discovering the Federal Transit Administration warned the RTC board it stands to lose about $5 million in federal funding if it doesn’t make a decision when it meets Oct. 13. The transit agency also warned that splitting the contract in two, when that wasn’t part of the original request for a proposal, is not permissible under FTA rules.

Collins, a county commissioner since 2005 and a former assemblyman, is an electrician by trade who calls himself “just a plain old cowboy.”

He formed his consulting company in November 2009 and has consulted for a few clients on energy and power line issues. An environmental company hired him but stiffed him when it went bankrupt. He said he will continue consulting.

Collins said he talked to assistant district attorneys before accepting consulting jobs to see whether there are conflicts. He did this with Veolia as well but said he didn’t tell the attorneys it was Veolia. Instead, he asked whether he could lobby people who were not county commissioners who serve on other boards when he is not a member. He said he was advised he could.

Collins said he hasn’t been paid a penny by Veolia. Asked how much he was supposed to be paid, he answered, “Not very much.” Was it less than the $10,000 a month some consultants receive? “A lot less.”

The County Commission is considered a part-time job with a salary of $80,603. Collins’ most recent financial disclosure shows his income is from his county salary, rental property, his position as chairman of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Collins Consulting. He no longer lists Collins Line Builders Electric as active.

When Mesquite Citizen Journal Publisher Barbara Ellestad asked Collins about the bus contract at the town hall, he answered, “I’ll disclose right now; a company has approached me to consult or lobby, whichever way you want to call it.”

He said then, and repeated to me, that staffers write requests for bids or requests for proposals to reach the outcome they want. His comments impugned both the process and the staff and hints at a vast conspiracy.

For Collins, the damage to his reputation is done despite his quitting Veolia. His explanations insulted four elected officials and staffers. He repeatedly said he had done nothing unethical, although I had gasped aloud when I heard about it.

Collins is entitled to make a living as a consultant. Other county commissioners have done so. Convicted felons Dario Herrera and Erin Kenny come to mind. But emulating their corrupt career paths wouldn’t be smart.

Elected officials who work as consultants often find themselves sinking in ethical quagmires, whether or not they realize it, even with the best of intentions.

Let’s get real. If they didn’t have these powerful elected jobs, nobody would pay them as consultants.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at or call her at (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at

Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like