Forget, for the moment, concerns about whether it was actually real estate consultant Donald Davidson who successfully paid off former Clark County Commissioner Erin Kenny and others for the zoning change needed to pull off that $1.5 million land deal for the CVS pharmacy at Buffalo Drive and Desert Inn Road.
What’s frustrating, exasperating, revolting — what surely has many Clark County voters at the point of throwing up their hands — is the fact that we’re way past trying to determine whether influence was being bought and sold. Heck, the testimony makes it clear influence is bought and sold here like beer and chips in the final hours before the Super Bowl.
No, the tough job is going to be untangling whose pile of loot actually ended up paying off who for what.
Davidson stands accused of paying Kenny $200,000 — plus a $3,000-a-month retainer — to close the deal.
Land broker Tommy Fehrman testified Tuesday that he offered Davidson $100,000 for his “consulting services” in getting the parcel in question re-zoned from residential to commercial, and another $100,000 if commissioners OK’d a side access drive and oversized signage.
But Fehrman testified Davidson also asked him to pay $10,000 to struggling real estate broker Mark Kincaid, in hopes Kincaid would prevail upon his mom, County Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, to OK the signage and access drive necessary to pull off the deal.
Fehrman testified that Davidson asked that his “lobbying fees” be sent to his son, Lawrence Davidson. The government contends the younger Davidson, an attorney, set up a trust fund to hide that money, and that the elder Davidson did not pay income taxes on all the money received from Fehrman.
During last year’s trial of ex-Commissioners Dario Herrera and Kincaid-Chauncey, Kenny testified the younger Davidson set up an offshore bank account where she could hide her own $200,000 payoff from the CVS deal.
Does anyone believe that kind of money just gets you a guy in a green eyeshade to make sure your application forms are properly filled out?
In the end, Kenny and Kincaid-Chauncey, along with fellow commissioners Herrera and Myrna Williams, pushed through the required “special use permit.”
Ms. Williams is the only one of the four not currently in federal prison or due to head there once (in Kenny’s case) she retires from her second career as a federal canary.
Fehrman’s testimony describes a political environment in which those who want favors from office-holders such as Kenny attend one-on-one fundraisers at the offices of the law firm Kummer Kaempfer Bonner Renshaw, where “you basically bring your checkbook.”
It’s hard to avoid the impression that what’s being described is merely business as usual in Clark County — that the current set of prosecutions is like lifting a rotting log to reveal a swarming termite colony, dipping in a stick to extract a few of the bugs, then gently replacing the log and declaring, “Problem solved!”
So long as commercial interests stand to make millions swapping one-acre parcels — rendering it a lucrative business proposition to offer the nearest county commissioner or City Council member $3,000 here, $100,000 there — can anyone seriously believe prosecutors have now “cleaned up the country, the old wild west country, they’ve made law and order prevail”?
Limit the “holding zones.” Allow most projects to be approved by mid-level Building Department clerks who merely check to make sure the plans “comply with code.” Only the rare bona fide zoning change — a considerable variance from prior planned use — should go before these elected boards.