Obama to reverse Bush policy hamstringing Nevada as conference locale

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’s outraged at the insensitivity of the travel policy of the Bush administration to Nevada’s resort industry after learning Department of Justice memos cautioned officials to avoid conferences at “locations known for gambling” and “resort locations.”

Reid said Thursday the Obama administration plans to rescind the policy.

An April 2006 memo from Department of Justice Management Division financial staff director Melinda B. Morgan cautioned not to send the wrong impression when booking conferences and meetings at nongovernmental facilities such as hotels. Morgan wrote: “Avoid locations and accommodations that give the appearance of being lavish or are resort destinations.”

Obviously, that policy didn’t exclude Reno.

BUSINESS COURT: Increasingly contentious lawsuits involving the first-trust deed lending business are being played out these days in Business Court, which has seen a 29 percent increase in cases in the past year, a District Court official says.

In fact, reports court information officer Michael Sommermeyer, District Court has added a third judge to its Business Court function in order to accommodate the increased activity.

The new judge is Kathleen Delaney, who this week joins bench veterans Elizabeth Gonzalez and Mark Denton.

The idea behind the creation of Business Court, Chief Judge Art Ritchie says, is to increase efficiency and reduce the time it takes lawsuits to move through the system.

Two of the more contentious lawsuits before the court involve first-trust deed mortgage owners Jeff Guinn of Aspen Financial and Leo Davenport of GFD Investments. Aspen is being sued by Donna Ruthe. GFD is defending a lawsuit filed by equipment rental king and former Spending and Government Efficiency Commission member Don Ahern.

Judge Delaney has experience in corporate, labor, and employment law and was a senior deputy attorney general in the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

THROWING ROCKS: Las Vegas Paving this week once again beat rival Fisher Sand and Gravel in front of the Clark County Commission in a bid for more than $100 million in work to widen the Las Vegas Beltway.

But there’s a catch. Fisher’s $112.2 million bid was superior to Las Vegas Paving’s $116.8 million offer. But Fisher came up substantially shy in the politics department and found itself hit with allegations of questionable business practices and wrongdoing. The company was pilloried by the commission’s friends from organized labor.

Now Fisher project manager Joe Miller is throwing some stones of his own.

“We believe it would have been in the best interest of the public to allow a continuance so that we could have responded to the allegations and charges brought against our company,” Miller said in a statement. “It is unfair to have double standards within the construction industry based on union preference. Non-union craftsmen should have the right to work in Clark County on prevailing wage projects in a right-to-work state. It is disconcerting that Las Vegas Paving was not placed under the same scrutiny or investigation as endured … by Fisher Sand and Gravel. Yet, Fisher — the lowest responsive, responsible bidder with the best bid — was slandered in a public hearing.”

A double standard in Southern Nevada government?

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

REALITY CHECK: While some analysts are predicting Las Vegas will start to pull out of its economic nosedive in the fall, Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson seems, ahem, somewhat less optimistic about the future here.

Adelson recently told The Wall Street Journal, “I don’t see any opportunities for development in Las Vegas.”

MGM Mirage CEO James Murren echoed Adelson’s sentiments.

But what happened to all the malarkey spewed by countless casino executives about how building gambling halls in other states was good for the Las Vegas economy because it “trained” players?

ON THE BOULEVARD: Bette Midler is offering fans a package that includes a front-row seat to her “The Showgirl Must Go On” show at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, a couple drinks, autographs and an opportunity to meet her backstage. The price? $1,000.

That might seem like a lot, but for years swells have been paying much more for photo opportunities with high-ranking politicians who don’t entertain and can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

BOULEVARD II: CityCenter is playing host to a “Guest Room Attendant Career Fair” at 3 p.m. today. I think that means they’re interviewing positions for housekeepers at the development’s career center, 3549 Industrial Road.

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

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