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Federal guilty plea no barrier for Barlow as Las Vegas lobbyist

Updated May 9, 2019 - 3:24 pm

Former Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow, who resigned early last year after admitting to misusing campaign funds, has communicated twice with elected leaders and once with a top aide since registering as a lobbyist in January, city records show.

Barlow discussed new business in Ward 3 with Ydoleena Yturralde, a special assistant to Councilman Bob Coffin on Jan. 10. He spoke with Coffin on behalf of a taxi company on Feb. 12. Then he and Councilman Cedric Crear talked about land use development on March 5.

The records show the extent of Barlow’s interactions with Las Vegas officials this year through April since registering with the city Jan. 10 to do business under his lobbying firm, LV Access & Associates, which pledges “the key to the city” to prospective clients.

Even as Barlow still garners praise for his performance on the council, including from Coffin and Mayor Carolyn Goodman who both served alongside him for more than six years, the response to his decision to return to City Hall so soon is decidedly more tricky.

“There’s definitely a call there you have to make and I’m not holding it against his clients,” Coffin said, adding that he tries to “depersonalize” matters of city business and Barlow had paid his debt. “You’re not talking to the lobbyist, you’re talking to the person they represent.”

Plus, beyond Barlow serving a one-month prison sentence, Coffin said, “I don’t think we should punish someone and cause them to lose a livelihood.”

Goodman was similarly sympathetic to Barlow’s attempts to rebuild a professional life: “He has to take care of his family and he has to take care of himself. He has to earn.”

Like Coffin, she said she would not hesitate to take Barlow’s phone call or to meet with him, although so far she has not. She described her former colleague as “bright” and “the most effective, very hardworking” councilman.

Still, “I probably would have dissuaded him” from becoming a lobbyist, she said, later explaining “only because of the history.”

Barlow’s company, LV Access LLC, filed for state incorporation on Aug. 14, less than 30 days after he was sentenced to a month in prison upon pleading guilty to felony wire fraud for misuse of campaign funds in 2015.

City rules do not preclude a convicted felon from registering as a lobbyist, according to spokesman Jace Radke. They do require public employees to wait a year between city employment and paid lobbying work, however, but the cooling off period pertains only to meetings with elected officials and not staff.

The circumstances that prompted Barlow to resign thus far have not presented a barrier to getting through to at least two city council members. The key facet of his new job is to communicate directly with them on behalf of his clients in an effort to influence decision making. And others who have not spoken with him, such as Goodman, conveyed no issue in taking his call or meeting despite expressing disappointment in his actions.

“I mean, if someone wants to do business with the city of Las Vegas and they want to hire Ricki Barlow as their representative, my policy is that I pretty much meet with everybody,” Councilman Stavros Anthony said.

Anthony said he did not expect Barlow to go the lobbyist route following his resignation, but it made sense.

“I’m surprised that he is doing that, but I’m not surprised because he understands how the city of Las Vegas works,” Anthony said.

Barlow, who served on the council for more than a decade, carries a wealth of knowledge, Coffin said.

“I, myself, like Ricki Barlow,” he said. “He’ll have my ear. If I like what I hear, I’ll help him.”

But Coffin has less than two months remaining in his final term. Crear and Councilwoman Michele Fiore, who have years remaining in office, did not respond this week to a message seeking comment.

Neither did Barlow.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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