WORKERS GET BLAME, NO FINE IN HOTEL BLAZE

The Clark County Fire Department has decided to issue no citations in connection with the Jan. 25 three-alarm fire at the Monte Carlo, which led to the evacuation of 6,000 people and cost almost $100 million in damage and lost business.

“We reviewed all the information, and we didn’t feel it was intentional,” Fire Chief Steve Smith said Tuesday of mistakes that led to the fire. The department’s legal counsel concurred in the decision, Smith said.

The department identified the cause as stray bits of molten metal, called slag, produced as workers used a cutting torch on the roof of the Monte Carlo.

Smith had said in a Jan. 31 news release that workers at the Monte Carlo had failed to use protective “slag mats” as they cut corrugated steel to build a rooftop walkway. In the end, investigators got conflicting stories from workers about the use of mats, the chief said Tuesday.

In January, the fire chief had said workers also failed to post a “fire watch” worker to detect chance ignitions resulting from slag dropping on burnable materials, including the roof’s rubber membrane and the building’s foam upper facade.

On Tuesday, he said an investigation revealed there was an “ineffective” fire watch, at best.

As to the lack of a so-called hot work permit from the county, Smith said, the workers lacked a valid county permit but had thought an in-house permit system at the Monte Carlo sufficed.

MONDAY

Parole chief quits after agency audit

State Division of Parole and Probation chief John Gonska announced his resignation, just 25 days after a legislative audit uncovered numerous problems at his agency.

In a letter, Gonska said he was quitting because the travel demands of the job prevented him from spending enough time with his family.

He had been chief of the agency for the past four years and previously spent 20 years with the U.S. Probation Office, including 17 years in Nevada.

TUESDAY

Layoffs loom as budget worsens

Layoffs may be coming to state government, as Gov. Jim Gibbons prepares to outline another round of budget cuts because the faltering state economy has left government with an $800 million budget shortfall.

Dennis Mallory, chief of staff for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041, said Gibbons can’t avoid layoffs since state agencies have already had to absorb $565 million in cuts he imposed in January.

But Ben Kieckhefer, Gibbons’ press secretary, said the administration still had not made a final decision on where cuts will be made.

WEDNESDAY

Algebra, geometry students failing

End-of-semester exams administered by the Clark County School District in January resulted in failing grades for 90.5 percent of Algebra 1 students, 87.8 percent of Geometry students and 86.6 percent of Algebra 2 students.

The preliminary numbers jolted Superintendent Walt Rulffes, who said staff members are analyzing test scores. “Maybe this is the shock we need to get the system fixed,” he said.

THURSDAY

Insurers suspend

clinic contracts

Three of Nevada’s top health insurance carriers have suspended contracts with the Gastroenterology Center of Nevada and its 14 physicians and three surgery centers.

Representatives of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Sierra Health Services and Cigna HealthCare said the contracts were suspended or terminated after they received information from the Southern Nevada Health District about the six hepatitis C cases linked to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada on Shadow Lane.

Health officials acknowledged the seriousness of the crisis that has caused concern among thousands of Nevadans who were told to get tested for blood-borne diseases, but they said taking 14 gastroenterologists out of the mix exacerbates a shortage of physicians.

FRIDAY

Taxable sales drop 5 percent

Nevada’s funding problems worsened as the state Department of Taxation announced that taxable sales for January plunged nearly 5 percent from the year before, the biggest drop in the state’s economic slowdown.

Statewide taxable sales totaled $3.52 billion in January, down from $3.7 billion in January 2007. The 4.9 percent decrease pushed taxable sales for the first seven months of the fiscal year to a 1.8 percent decline over the same period during the previous fiscal year.

COMPILED BY MICHAEL SQUIRES

READ THE FULL STORIES ONLINE AT

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