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.

 

 

ad-high_impact_4
News
Former Las Vegas police explorer sentenced to 25 years to life in prison
Former Las Vegas police explorer Joshua Honea sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for sexual assault of a minor, but was allowed to remain free on bail pending appeal. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Fans Line Up to Grab Their Conference Champions Gear
Golden Knights fans lined up at City National Arena Monday to snap up Conference Champions gear and other memorabilia the day after the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup Conference Finals. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas-Review Journal)
Las Vegas shooting survivor has surprise reunion
Oct. 1 mass shooting survivors Taylor Stovall and Parker Gabel meet for the first time since Gabel helped the injured Stovall to an ambulance the night of the shooting. Stovall, then 17, was shot in the arm. They met Friday at the Tropicana.
Hawaii volcano presser
Talmadge Magno of Hawaii Civil Defense gives an update on the Kilauea volcano
Same-Sex Weddings on the Rise in Las Vegas
Allie and Tara Shima finally tied the knot. They've been together for five years and have both been married before. This time, they wanted something simple, quick and cheap, but it still had to feel special. The couple chose Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Courtyard Homeless Resource Center begins building in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Ward 3 Councilman Bob Coffin kicked off the demolition of buildings where the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center will be built. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
"Yanny" or "Laurel" hearing test has gone viral
'Yanny' or 'Laurel?' This Hearing Test Has Gone Viral This hearing test has gone viral on social media with some hearing "Yanny" while others swear hearing "Laurel." The voice is actually saying "Laurel," but the pitch was changed, causing some to hear "Yanny."
LVMPD Briefs on Year's Sixth Officer-Involved Shooting
Las Vegas police have identified the officer who shot a shovel-wielding woman on Saturday as 23-year-old Ondre Wills.
Police release body camera footage of shovel-wielding woman
Las Vegas police identified the woman they said threatened neighbors with a skillet Saturday night. Officer Ondre Wills, 23, shot at Sommer Richards, 34, multiple times on Big Sur Drive, near Nellis Boulevard and Desert Inn Road. Police responded to the area after receiving reports that the woman was armed with a shovel. Police said the woman chased neighbors and a security guard. Wills got between Richards and the others and repeatedly told her to drop the shovel. The woman instead turned and moved toward a person who was standing nearby before the officer fired shots. Police said she bit another officer as he attempted to render aid. Richards remains in serious but stable condition.
College of Southern Nevada Graduates 2017-18 Class
The College of Southern Nevada's graduation ceremony was held at the Thomas & Mack Center Monday. The 2017-18 class was the institution's largest in history. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro looking for suspect in bank robbery.
On Jan. 22, a man robbed a bank in the 8700 block of West Sahara Avenue.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee at opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at opening ceremony of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, speaks about the violence in Gaza. (Debra J. Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Supreme Court strikes down law banning sports betting outside Nevada
The Supreme Court has overturned a federal ban on sports gambling. States other than Nevada will be allowed to provide bookmaking and betting at casinos and race tracks. Justice Samuel Alito said Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, “each State is free to act on its own.” The vote was 6-3. One research firm estimates that 32 states will likely offer sports betting within five years.
Westcare Clinic Crucial to Las Vegan's Addiction Recovery
Christian Hunt, 21, was sent to Westcare in September after he ended up on drugs and in the hospital. If it weren't for the nonprofit's Community Triage Center, Hunt said he would still be using drugs. Instead, he's been sober for six months, and stopped using methamphetamines seven months ago. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Foundation Provides Full Rides for Clark County Students
Somewhere along the banks of the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky, a group of students from Sin City are pursuing a higher education. Feature on the 38 Clark County students that the Rogers Foundation has given full rides to for Kentucky Wesleyan College. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Flames engulf house in Henderson
Clark County firefighters battled a house fire early Friday morning in Henderson. The house, located near Volunteer Boulevard and Executive Airport Drive, was fully engulfed in flames about 2 a.m. Shifting winds sent massive plumes of smoke across the southern Las Vegas Valley sky. As of 3 a.m. , the cause of the fire was not known and no injuries were reported.
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time Georgina Chapman was profiled for 'Vogue’s' June issue, speaking on her estranged husband for the first time since he was accused of sexual assault in October. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Chapman, who has two children with Weinstein, also said she has been seeing a therapist and that has helped her move forward. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Read the full profile on Chapman in Vogue’s June issue or online at Vogue.com.
Bark-Andre Furry the dog is a Vegas Golden Knights hockey fan
The furriest fan of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights is growing into a social media sensation. Bark-Andre Furry the Jack Russell terrier has thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect Sought In Robbery Attempt
Attorney Gloria Allred on case against Benjamin Sparks
Attorney Gloria Allred is representing the victim in a "sex slave" case against GOP political consultant Benjamin Sparks.
2018 Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards winners
Some winners of the 2018 Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards receive their awards.
Weather Balloon Collects Key Data
Meteorologist Chelsea Kryston discusses the Las Vegas National Weather Service's balloon carrying a radiosonde that collects temperature, humidity and pressure readings.
'Avengers: Infinity War' to Cross $1 Billion Mark
'Avengers: Infinity War' to Cross $1 Billion Mark And it will have done so faster than any other film in history. The Anthony and Joe Russo directed film has only been in theaters for eight days since its Apr. 27 release, and it’s already raked in $905.1 million at the worldwide box office, including $338.4 million in North America. It will reach the milestone faster than ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ which took 12 days to cross over the $1 billion threshold. ‘Infinity War’ is the 34th film to cross $1 billion at the global box office, not accounting for inflation.
Henderson Residents Fighting Their HOA
Sun City Anthem residents Tim Stebbins and Bob Frank were arrested by the Henderson Police Department for filing a false report of a crime after they claimed their HOA was hiding surplus assessments in a secret slush fund. Nearly a decade later, Frank is still trying to clear his name. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Professor Retiring After 50 Years
Professor Bernard Malamud reflects on his 50 years teaching economics at UNLV and what it's been like watching to school and the city grow.
Donald Trump recognizes Jon Ponder of Hope for Prisoners
Former bank robber Jon Ponder, now CEO of Hope for Prisoners, is recognized by President Donald Trump at the White House Rose Garden. Debra J. Saunders/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Motorcyclist suffers severe head injury
A crash early Friday morning has left a motorcyclist hospitalized with a serious head injury, according to Las Vegas police. The crash occurred in the southwest valley at Durango Drive and the 215 Beltway, and was reported around 1:30 a.m. Police are investigating and one lane of the eastbound 215 offramp has been shut down.
Woman stabbed in the stomach
Las Vegas police are looking for the suspect who stabbed a woman in the stomach during a street robbery Friday morning in the central valley. The 37-year-old woman walked into the 7-Eleven at 531 E. Sahara Ave., around 1:30 a.m. with a wound to her abdomen, according to police. She was taken to a local hospital and is expected to survive her wound. The stabber remains at-large.
Trump Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Trump Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize Eighteen House members sent a letter to the Nobel Committee in Norway, recommending President Donald Trump for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. The letter was signed by Rep. Luke Messer and other GOP members, according to the New York Post. Letter to Nobel Committee This week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Trump deserved the nomination, as well, for his efforts to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un soon.
Bodycam video: Las Vegas police breach gunman’s door during Oct. 1 shooting
Las Vegas police released body camera footage that depicts the moment officers breached Oct. 1 gunman Stephen Paddock’s Mandalay Bay suite.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like