Billy spills the beans
$50 million dollar windfall hangs in
but old friend may no longer be able to help
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
October 3, 2005
LAS VEGAS - Last Monday, veteran ethicisist Robert Rose and I filed a
Request for Opinion with the Nevada Commission on Ethics asking whether
LV Mayor Oscar Goodman violated state law by repeatedly failing to
disclose at public hearings that he once collected extensive legal fees
from Billy Walters, then granted the golf course developer valuable
This was not the first time Goodman has been the recipient of criticism
in ethical judgement.
was found guilty in May 2004 of violating the state ethics law based on
another complaint filed by Robert Rose.
Last week, based on news of our complaint, new information surfaced
that inspired Mr. Rose and I to file the following addendum:
|State of Nevada
Commission on Ethics
3476 Executive Pointe Way,
Carson City, Nevada
REQUEST FOR OPINION – Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman
ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE to be added to Request
September 29, 2005
To Whom It May Concern:
Tuesday, September 27, 2005, the Las Vegas Sun published a story (attached): entitled: “Miller, Rose file ethics
complaint against Goodman."
this article, reporter Dan Kulin states: “Miller has also cited two
from the mid-1980s as evidence of Goodman and Walters' close ties. The
documents appear to create a trust and then later dissolve that same
trust. Walters said the documents reflect him using his house as
Goodman's fee (emphasis added). ‘I didn't have a lot of
money back then,’ Walters said.”
Based on this
information, it is clear that the fee Mr. Walters paid Mr. Goodman was
very significant, since the house Mr. Walters refers to was located on
the Las Vegas Country Club, where in the 1980s, homes sold for a
minimum of one-half million dollars and up.
Walters’ own words
in this LV Sun article indicate that a sizable amount of money changed
hands between then-attorney Goodman and Mr. Walters during years prior
to Mr. Goodman’s election as Mayor of Las Vegas.
Then, on Wednesday, September 28, 2005, the Las Vegas Review-Journal
published an article (attached) entitled: “Ethics complaint filed against
this article, reporter Ed Vogel states that Goodman said, "That
relationship terminated, oh I'd say several years ago."
relationship worth hundreds of thousands of dollars terminated “several
years” prior to Mayor Goodman participating in votes to enrichen his
former client, this information needed to be publicly disclosed during
every hearing wherein Mr. Walters appeared before his former criminal
defense attorney to ask for favors.
This did not happen,
and therefore we request the official opinion of the Nevada Commission
on Ethics regarding Mayor Goodman’s blatant failure to disclose his
previous, lucrative relationship with Mr. Walters.
Walters, in the 1980s, was three times indicted on money
laundering charges. However, Oscar Goodman, his first criminal
defense lawyer, got him off as he had other clients including the late
Tony "the ant" Spilotro. In recent years, Billy Walters has transformed
into a pillar
of the community and often appears before the city council and
county commission asking for favors to enhance his business interests.
In June, he even got the state government to give his golf courses a
break! He usually gets
what he wants with little discussion from elected officials, or
attention from the media -- until now.
Keep in mind
that Walters is heavily involved in fund raising for many suspect local
and state politicians. Billy is best known for putting together lavish
campaign parties for select political candidate's at his ultra trendy Cili
restaurant at his South Strip
Bali Hai Country Club.
I was the first to
report that Walters
in 1999 purchased 160 acres of publicly owned land just off the Boulder
Strip (location of Sam's Town and The Boulder Station) for only
$894,000, or $5,600 per acre to purportedly build a golf course that he
promised would offer a discount
to locals and cater to nearby casinos. The same land was assessed
by the Clark County Assessor at $40,000 per acre! The course was soon
built, but no discount was offered, and the greens reportedly fell into
a state of disrepair. Also, following the transfer, one of the
then-city council members, the official who spearheaded the bargain
basement sale, coincidentally began a meteoric
rise to wealth.
Five years later, Walters was back before the city council, this time
headed by his former lawyer-turned-Mayor Oscar Goodman, asking that the
deed restriction that limited the 160 acres to golf course use only, be
lifted so he can build over one thousand cracker box houses and make an
estimated $50 to $60 million dollar windfall on once-taxpayer owned
land. The mayor, like a Genie in a Bottle,
seemed poised to grant his former client his wish, that's until the Las Vegas Review-Journal began criticizing
the latest sweetheart deal.
This is not the first time Walters has come before Goodman's council
asking for favors.
April 19, 2000, during an unimportant matter that attracted no
attention, according to the LV SUN
, "... the council was
deciding whether to allow Walters' company sell its interest in the
billboards at the Desert Pines Golf Course, which Walters leases from
the city. Before a vote on the matter, Goodman asked (City Attorney
Brad) Jerbic if there was a problem if he participated. According to a
transcript of the meeting received from the city clerk's office, Jerbic
said the city's ethics board has reviewed similar situations and 'where
there's been a professional relationship that terminated over two years
ago, they have found no conflict exist. And that being the case here,
no conflict exists with respect with you and Mr. Walters.'"
October, 2001, Walters made a bid on a management
contract for another city owned golf course. Though the committee that
recommends such things voted against him in favor of someone offering
less financial risk to the city, Goodman said
"If I have a choice, if you know
somebody and they're honorable, and you've done business with them in
they get the best of it,
promptly, without disclosing his ties to Walters, voted to grant him
the lucrative contract.
With this information in mind, and since I was the author of the City
of Las Vegas Ethics in Government Law that says a public official must
potential conflicts of interest before discussing or voting on an item
that could enrichen someone they've "done business with... in the
past," I red flagged every time Walters received a favor from Goodman.
In the most recent event where Walters stands to make an obscene profit
on what was only five years ago a piece of taxpayer-owned land, I
couldn't contain myself and, with the assistance of a learned
colleague, filed the Ethics Complaint.
After our complaint was reported in newspapers across the state,
Walters was interviewed by Dan Kulin of the Las Vegas SUN
. Walters revealed
that he put his home up for collateral to cover Goodman's legal fee, a
fee that was obviously sizable enough to warrant public disclosure. The
following day, Ed Vogel of the Review-Journal
Capitol Bureau reported that Goodman stated on the record at a council
meeting in 1999, that his business relationship with Walters terminated
only "several years ago." That's several years prior to him beginning
to grant Walters favors at council meetings. He also never mentioned
what he was paid for his services, though in the 1980s, Goodman was
well known for requiring a half-million dollar retainer from his
criminal defense clients.
If Billy Walters wants the mayor and council to lift a deed
restriction so he can enjoy a $50 million dollar profit from land he
picked up from the taxpayers for a song, the mayor should be disclosing
that a lucrative relationship between himself and Walters once existed
-- no matter how many years before he was elected -- each time Walters
comes before the council for favors. A quick, "That relationship terminated, oh I'd say
several years ago,"
along with a wink from the obedient city
attorney, does not suffice when the public has the right to know when
possible political paybacks are taking place.
Futhermore, the city attorney's patronizing opinion was not accepted by
the ethics commission as an excuse for his boss's lack of ethics in the
2004 case when Goodman was found guilty of violations of state law. He
had sought the opinion of Jerbic then, and it was found to be
just as unreliable as it is in this case.
And though the ethics commission may, or may not, decide to proceed
with our complaint, the previously secret information is now where it
belongs, in the public domain -- the court of public opinion, and that
was our primary goal in taking this action.