Spirited Kenny offered promise


Few government watchdogs will forget the 1996 Clark County Commission meeting when a relative newcomer named Erin Kenny shook a set of pom-poms to encourage her fellow board members to discuss good news in their respective districts.

Kenny was a young, lively politician seemingly eager to please her constituents.

"She was very energetic and personable," Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury said Thursday. "She wanted to be a team player is what she was telling everybody; she wanted to work for the good of the community."

"At one time, I really thought Erin stood for something and she was passionate about issues," said former Clark County Manager Thom Reilly. "It’s painfully evident she didn’t. It was all about her own self-interest and what she could get out of it."

Kenny’s once-promising political career plummeted, hitting rock bottom in 2003 when she landed in a federal courtroom pleading guilty to political corruption.

As recently as last fall, Kenny was still a cheerleader, at her son’s Meadows School football team games. But she sat high in the bleachers –alone and away from the rest of the parents. In her political heyday, she strutted the sidelines in power suits, chatting on her cell phone.

Kenny said last year that because of the community’s contempt toward her, she has been in "public jail" since she admitted to pocketing cash bribes from strip club owner Michael Galardi.

During the last four years, she has worked to help federal prosecutors take down her former colleagues and, most recently, real estate consultant Donald Davidson.

Kenny testified against Mary Kincaid-Chauncey and Dario Herrera, who were convicted of also taking bribes from Galardi. She also took the stand in Davidson’s trial, telling jurors that she collected $3,000 a month for three years after voting in 2000 for a casino in the Spring Valley neighborhood. She explained that Davidson bought her vote in favor of a CVS Pharmacy opposed by residents near the Buffalo Drive and Desert Inn Road site.

Woodbury noticed a change in Kenny’s attitude toward her constituents during her tenure.

"The relationships were much too tight, allegiances were more toward special interests than to the public," Woodbury said of Kenny. "But I never imagined there were bribes or corruption to that extent."

Her admission that she accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes helped answer questions that had been swirling for years about Kenny appearing to live beyond her means.

Kenny was paid $54,000 a year as a commissioner and her husband, John, worked as a part-time chiropractor. Yet despite having five children, the couple managed to live what appeared to be a lavish lifestyle.

Constituents and fellow commissioners wondered how she could afford to sent her five children to Meadows School, where tuition ranges from $11,000 to $14,000 a year depending on the grade level.

She raised eyebrows when she purchased a $869,000 home a year after she signed her plea agreement with the government.

She sent a buzz through the community when she announced this month that she is paid $16,800 a month by developer Jim Rhodes to serve as his government services consultant.

In 1960, Erin Leigh Callin was born in Pasadena, Calif., into a politically active family. At a young age, Kenny and her parents moved to Wood Dale, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

Her grandparents emigrated from Yugoslavia and instilled in their granddaugher that living in a democratic system in a privilege, Kenny said during a 1999 interview

Kenny’s mother, a teacher and president of a Chicago public school teacher’s union, was a staunch Democrat. Before age 10, Kenny helped her mother with political campaigns by making door hangers for fliers.

Her father, Charles Callin, worked as a draftsman for a local railroad company.

Kenny received a degree in speech communications from the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 1982. She then married John Kenny.

In 1985, Kenny launched her own advertising company called Callin and Callin Communications. Three years later, she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to Illinois bankruptcy court reports.

The Kenny family which now included two young children, decided to move west in 1989. They packed up their car and took a road trip to explore a different part of the country. During a short visit in Las Vegas, Kenny hit a $600 jackpot. That same year, they chose to make Las Vegas home, Kenny has said.

Kenny worked the graveyard shift at Imperial Palace to help support her young family, which eventually expanded to five children. She opened her own advertising company in 1989, but the venture only lasted two years.

Kenny overcame a Republican advantage and won her bid for state Assembly in 1992. After her first two-year term, she set her sites higher: the Clark County Commission, considered the most powerful government body in Nevada.

Hints of Kenny’s ruthlessness surfaced in her competitive campaign against incumbent Don Schlesinger. Anonymous fliers hinting that Schlesinger was gay appeared on the doorsteps of voters in District F. Kenny went on to win the race.

In 1998, as Kenny fought to retain her seat, she shattered campaign contribution records for county politicians, raising about $1.2 million.

She graduated from the Boyd Law School at UNLV while serving as a commissioner, but she subsequently failed the state bar exam.

During her second, and last, term on the board, Kenny frequently clashed with her colleagues and voted in favor of projects her constituents opposed.

"It was gradual," Woodbury said of the change in Kenny’s behavior. "It seemed little by little over the years you had a sense she was more and more involved with developers. She seemed to enjoy very much being associated with the so-called influential people.

"You had a distinct feeling she was doing the bidding of the movers and shakers. She liked to be very friendly with those people and hang out with them and go to parties and events more than you’d think would be appropriate."

In early 1999, Kenny assisted the Culinary union in writing an ordinance that would keep Wal-Mart Supercenters from opening in the county. She carefully crafted the ordinance to prohibit big-box stores larger than 110,000 square feet with a percentage of space reserved for groceries.

The ordinance was overturned after Wal-Mart representatives challenged it in court.

She was accused of heavy-handed governing when she attempted to push through ordinances outlawing motorists’ use of hand-held cell phones and prohibiting car lots from selling new cars on Sundays.

She faced a backlash from her fellow commissioners when she went behind their backs and developed a plan to build a $100 million children’s hospital. Kenny sprung the proposal on commissioners during a board meeting, putting them in a tough spot politically.

Kenny’s constituents began questioning her intentions as early as 1999.

"I don’t think she truly 100 percent cares about residents," Theresa Bunker, then-president of the Enterprise Homeowners Association, said that year. "Making money and being noticed is her agenda."

Kenny was pulled before the Nevada State Ethics Commission in April 2001 after she was accused of directing two county employees to break into the County Government Center to find documents damaging to her colleague, Mary Kincaid, who changed her name to Kincaid-Chauncey after marrying.

Kincaid was in a heated race against Kenny’s close friend, North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Stephanie Smith, to keep her commission seat.

The ethics board ultimately cleared Kenny of wrongdoing.

In May 2002, on the deadline for filing for her third term on the Clark County Commission, Kenny instead threw her name into the lieutenant governor’s race.

Kenny even won the support of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who in 2002 told the Review-Journal: "The thing I most admire about Erin is that she’s a person who does what she thinks is right. She may not always follow what is popular at the time. She has a fixed set of principles and off she goes."

During her unsuccessful campaign against incumbent Lorraine Hunt, Kenny was asked about her series of controversial proposals she pitched as a commissioner. Kenny simply answered: "People know who I am."

But did they?

Woodbury and Reilly said Kenny was more out of control toward the end of her term.

"After the election in 2002, I made some comments to people, to staff and one or two commissioners that it looks like we’re having a fire sale on the county," said Woodbury, who has served on the commission for 25 years. "There were zone changes and variances that made no sense whatsoever. I thought it was just her way of saying thank you to some of her buddies in the development industry."

On May 14, 2003, FBI agents stormed into Galardi’s Cheetah’s topless bar and began seizing records from the strip club mogul’s office. That same day, agents visited Kenny at her husband’s chiropractic office.

The next day, Kenny met with federal investigators and admitted to receiving thousands of dollars from Galardi in exchange for votes in favor of his business empire. Those interviews with FBI agents are foggy, Kenny said last year.

"I was fairly distressed," she told jurors in the Herrera and Kincaid-Chauncey trial. "I was ashamed and remorseful."

Kenny told investigators that a bout with vertigo in 2000 had stolen most of her memory. Her former colleagues and staff members recall Kenny’s long absence, but said she never mentioned memory loss.

Despite her spotty memory, the government made Kenny its star witness.

She soon explained that not only did she pocket Galardi’s money, but she withdrew money from her campaign coffers for her own personal use, which was illegal, and sold her vote to Davidson.

Kenny told jurors that after Davidson paid her $200,000 to vote for zoning changes and special use permits that paved the way for a CVS Pharmacy her accountant and Davidson’s son, Lawrence Davidson, established an off-shore bank account in the Cook Islands to hide her illegal payoff. Kenny testified that she was unaware of the details of the account.

"I didn’t want to know," Kenny explained. "It was such a bad thing, I refused to look at it deeply. It wasn’t how I was raised and it wasn’t what I should have done."

Although some community members did not hide their disdain for the former representative, the government appeared to show sympathy toward Kenny. During her first day of testimony last year, she was escorted in through a back door typically reserved for federal employees in an attempt to avoid a barrage of reporters waiting at the front door.

Kenny said last year she believes she has done her time for her crimes.

"I’ve served three years in public jail," Kenny testified. "It’s been very difficult. I felt terrible and ashamed and immediately apologized to the FBI."

Residents in her former district are still waiting for their apology.



Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like