For years, most politicians have acted as if the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority was untouchable. That’s starting to change. It’s about time.
CEO Rossi Ralenkotter has announced he wants to retire. But he’s also hired a lawyer to negotiate a severance package — even though he’ll be able to cash in 40-plus years of sick and vacation leave and will receive a pension worth more than $400,000 annually.
That’s an audacious and tone-deaf request for a public servant who’s leading an agency currently facing a police investigation involving the misuse of Southwest Airline gift cards. Mr. Ralenkotter alone spent more than $16,000 in gift cards for personal travel, which he reimbursed after getting caught. That’s on top of the waste at the authority exposed by the RJ’s investigative team over the past 16 months.
Mr. Ralenkotter’s demand was the final straw for North Las Vegas mayor and LVCVA board member John Lee. Lee wants him to step down immediately.
“In light of the criminal investigation, in light of some of the malfeasance within the organization, it has become more and more apparent that we need a change of leadership,” Mr. Lee said. “We need to move past this cloud.”
Over the weekend, Assemblyman Keith Pickard sent a letter to the LVCVA board members urging them not to offer Mr. Ralenkotter a financial settlement to leave.
“Rare are the instances where a ‘shakedown’ is publicly announced in advance, especially from one who is being investigated for criminal wrongdoing,” he wrote. He felt compelled to do something after constituents contacted him to say they “vehemently oppose such a payout.”
Indeed. The LVCVA’s lavish spending has long outraged the public, but most politicians have quaked in fear of it. Last year, a spokesman for then-Republican minority leader Paul Anderson told his caucus not to talk about the the LVCVA. Gov. Brian Sandoval refused to condemn the agency’s excesses. Only a handful of elected officials, including Controller Ron Knecht, spoke out against that waste.
“If I just sit quietly back and say nothing, I’m part of it,” Mr. Lee said. “I’m complicit in it. When you do nothing, you’re agreeing with what’s going on. I’m not agreeing with what’s going on.”
Exactly. Good for Mr. Lee and Assemblyman Pickard for speaking out. More elected officials — especially other LVCVA board members — should do the same. The authority is under no contractual obligation to pay off Mr. Ralenkotter. It’s time for the board to show it’s learned from its past mistakes by denying him a golden parachute.