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Law firm has been big donor to Clark County commissioners

The attorney and law firm that received a retainer worth up to $500,000 from Clark County commissioners last month have donated thousands to the election campaigns of those same officials, state records show.

Since 2011, attorney Kirk Lenhard, the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and its other local shareholders have given commissioners’ campaigns more than $46,000.

Commissioners say they approved only the agreement; the district attorney’s office picked the firm.

As for the donations? That’s politics.

“A lot of our vendors and developers and whatnot are supporters of various commissioners past, present and, I’m sure, future,” Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said. “And, unfortunately, that’s the way you have to finance politics.”

Campaign finance records show that Lenhard’s firm and its shareholders have given to dozens of candidates — Republican, Democrat and nonpartisan — including Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, state Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. Since 2008, some $90,000 in donations have been made in the firm’s names to candidates in state and local races.

“Brownstein is a politically active, bipartisan firm. Many of our attorneys and policy professionals around the country are politically active and some choose to make their own personal contributions to candidates and causes,” firm representative Lara Day wrote in an email.

The Denver-based firm has not donated money to Nevada’s local races since early 2015.

Lenhard did not return a request for comment from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Not on retainer

Under the retainer approved July 18, Lenhard will be paid up to $350 an hour to prepare and represent the county for an expected lawsuit from Ames Construction, a contractor making improvements to the Las Vegas Wash.

The county and company have declined to comment about potential litigation, but a county commission agenda item previously cited anticipated claims “relating to storm events.”

Although the county has a list of 17 law firms it keeps on retainer, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is not on it.

County spokesman Erik Pappa said the firm on retainer that the county would have used had a conflict of interest. He would not disclose the firm or the nature of its conflict.

Pappa said the district attorney’s office suggested an outside firm to handle the potential case because it’s too specialized for in-house counsel to handle alone. Competitive bidding was not required because attorneys provide a professional service.

“I don’t think it’s anything intentional in terms of ‘Oh, because this person may have contributed to someone’s campaign so we automatically ought to award them a contract,’” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said. “It’s a matter of looking at their scope of work and making sure we can get our best bang for our buck out of that situation.”

Pappa said county counsel Mary-Anne Miller suggested Lenhard based on his experience. He’s represented the county multiple times, including in multimillion-dollar lawsuits involving properties surrounding McCarran International Airport and the construction of the Regional Justice Center.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who received $1,000 from Lenhard for his 2014 re-election campaign, said he was not involved in choosing the firm.

“My civil division handles these exclusively, and on matters like this I defer to them 100 percent,” he said. “I don’t have any involvement in it.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

 

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