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Plaque at veterans cemetery in Boulder City upsets Las Vegas vet

Near the chapel at the veterans cemetery in Boulder City is a black granite plaque that bears the names of some of Clark County’s most notorious white-collar criminals.

It is a sad reminder of four county commissioners who were convicted of political corruption after they had dedicated the plaque in 2000 to commemorate a construction grant they had secured for the cemetery.

It is even sadder, though, to Martin Dean Dupalo whose father — Milton Dupalo, an Army Ranger and Bronze Star medal recipient — died that same year and was buried nearby.

Dupalo views the convicts’ names as disrespectful because they are prominently displayed where veterans who served the nation honorably are buried.

The plaque should be replaced with a generic one that doesn’t leave a tainted image, he said.

"This is what you do so there’s not a problem when four out of seven go to jail," said Dupalo, a longtime Las Vegas resident and former Air Force officer.

The four former commissioners, Erin Kenny, Lance Malone, Dario Herrera and Mary Kincaid-Chauncey all served time for their roles related to bribery in a political corruption scheme. Herrera and Kincaid-Chauncey were convicted. Kenny and Malone pleaded guilty to their charges. Malone is expected to be released from prison in 2012. The others have been released following their stints in prison.

"The irony is they betrayed the trust of the people that veterans fought so valiantly for," Dupalo said.

The plaque on the Wall of Life at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery is "not about the politicians," he said. "It’s about the veterans who served. … It’s a place of high respect, one of higher standards, not lower, and it can’t be political."

Dupalo has been patient in his effort to get the plaque changed.

Five years ago he wrote Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid stating his concerns. Reid replied that Dupalo wasn’t alone.

"Your concerns have been expressed before by other members of the community with regards to memorial plaques," Reid’s reply reads.

The 2005 letter describes "a new policy that standardizes all county memorial plaques," which are now bronze and cost about $1,700 apiece.

Though scaled down, the new plaques still would bear the names of standing commissioners.

"I recognize the sensitivity and importance of the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, however, I am satisfied with the efforts made by county staff on correcting memorial plaque standards," Reid wrote.

County spokesman Erik Pappa said recently that if cemetery officials requested a new plaque "we would give them a new plaque. Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it."

Carole Turner, deputy director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, which oversees the cemetery, said Friday the issue is "just coming to our attention."

If Dupalo or county officials submit a written request about changing the plaque, Turner said she would consult the National Cemetery Administration and the state deputy attorney general for advice on what steps, if any, to take.

"We would be happy to look into the situation," Turner said.

Dupalo said he has talked to Turner about the issue before and will follow up with a written request to have the plaque changed.

Pappa said regardless of the cemetery plaque, the county has "dozens or scores" of plaques dedicating county buildings and facilities. Not all of the more than 170 buildings have plaques, but most newer buildings do.

"I suspect we’ve been doing it from the beginning. We go back 100 years."

Some of the plaques have one or more names of the convicted commissioners. One in the rotunda of the Clark County Government Center, for example, includes Kenny’s name but not the other tarnished commissioners.

Replacing them would be costly and raise questions about revising history, Pappa said.

"The question is: Is it worth replacing those with the tarnished commissioners’ names?" he asked. "It is revisionist history if you decide to cleanse the buildings of those persons names.

"I think those of us who work at the county would like to see their names removed. They besmirched the county’s image. But on the other hand you can’t change history and the effort would be somewhat involved and cost money we don’t have."

Dupalo isn’t satisfied with Pappa’s position. Instead, he said, the county should use a generic format for its plaques and doesn’t include the names of individual politicians.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

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