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Putrid parks plot

The blame game playing out in Clark County Department of Parks and Recreation e-mails seems to center on park police staffing for the recent Memorial Day weekend. But the finger-pointing between the director and assistant director has its roots in Carson City.

The e-mails passed out by park police union leaders last week said Assistant Parks Director Terry Lamuraglia ordered patrol teams to spend their Saturday shifts — for the holiday and beyond — at the county’s vast shooting park under construction in the northern valley. The move would have left officers unable to police the urban valley over the holiday weekend, diverting calls for assistance to Las Vegas police — without notifying Metro of the plan.

Depending on who you talk to, the plot was designed to highlight the park police’s limited resources, narrow their jurisdiction to just a few parks or get the force shut down altogether as part of the county’s belt-tightening.

There appear to be two main camps in this made-for-soaps saga. On one side are the Lamuraglia backers, who have followed the former firefighter’s lengthy public service career and the consummate "player" status that drew him into the heart of the G-Sting public corruption trial. On the other side you’ve got Parks Director Leonard Cash, who may be in charge only on the official organization chart.

The truth undoubtedly lies far from the e-mails that have so disgusted both park police union bosses and Metro brass.

Back when Lamuraglia was the county’s lobbyist in Carson City, he befriended a freshman assemblyman, essentially hitching a ride on the rising star who parlayed his instant legislative success and good looks into a seat on the County Commission. Dario Herrera and Lamuraglia were good friends who parlayed power into personal perks.

In 2002, when Herrera was grabbing all the cash he could to support a lifestyle beyond his means, he also became the Democratic Party’s nominee for Nevada’s new 3rd Congressional District seat. Current Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Tom Collins had served with Herrera in the Assembly. And current Commission Chairman Rory Reid was the chairman of the State Democratic Party.

Lamuraglia decided that if his friend Herrera was going to Congress, he’d also like an elected job. So Lamuraglia ran for the state Senate against Republican Dennis Nolan. But the stench of Lamuraglia’s lobbying gig could have hurt his election chances. So, several county sources said, Herrera pressured staff to move Lamuraglia to the Parks Department.

His new job didn’t end the criticism. One Republican mailer suggested Lamuraglia treated taxpayers like road kill, criticizing his $116,080 parks salary to "supervise Animal Control while he runs for the state Senate." But the better mailer put Lamuraglia into the role of a sleazy lounge singer who was reimbursed $15,000 for lobbying meals and bar tabs despite not reporting any expenses on legislators. "He made us pay the bill anyway," the mailer stated. "Maybe he was drinking to forget."

Both Lamuraglia and Herrera lost badly that year, and not because of a statewide Republican rout. The voters saw through both of them. The county should have canned Lamuraglia a decade ago, but only now is proceeding to terminate him for his insubordination in the park police matter.

It’s ironic that the current parks boss is named Cash, because Lamuraglia only reinforced the GOP’s dirtiest images of him during his testimony in the Michael Galardi trial two years ago.

Lamuraglia testified he and Herrera ate meals together and were comped at Galardi’s strip club with drinks and lap dances. "Dario never paid," was Lamuraglia’s testimony. And because he was hanging around, neither did he.

Lamuraglia would make up for this, according to his testimony. He said in 2000, when Herrera and his wife purchased a new house, Herrera asked Lamuraglia if he could use his credit card to buy $20,000 worth of furniture. He also said he always picked up the tab and even paid for Herrera’s gasoline. Lamuraglia said he received late-payment notices on the credit card afterward and demanded payment. G-Sting prosecutors said Herrera paid Lamuraglia back in cash through his liaison, Kelvin Atkinson, now a state assemblyman who also happens to work in the county coroner’s office.

Life must be really boring for Lamuraglia with Herrera, Galardi and others sitting in prison.

Although sources tell me he was generally disliked in the department from the top down, he was backed at high levels. Collins publicly fingered Cash as being responsible for the short-lived proposal to shift park police.

Now, Lamuraglia, who couldn’t be reached for comment, can take his 27-plus years and soak taxpayers with his pension. And he’s still young enough to land somewhere else to pursue other interests.

With any luck, Lamuraglia may even get to lobby again. There are always places for political operatives like him in other public sectors. And he’s clearly still got plenty of friends looking out for him.

Too bad the cops under his watch didn’t enjoy the same benefit.

Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at eneff@reviewjournal.com.

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