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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Nevada Taxi Authority Corruption
Secret Cash Cow Revealed - No Action Taken
State Taxi Officials Under Scrutiny

"I believe we are about to crack open one of the biggest
corruption cases in southern Nevada in recent times."
Scott Lewis, former Nevada Taxicab Authority Airport Control Officer

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
May 17, 2010

LAS VEGAS - One of the greatest mysteries of our town over the past several decades involves two state agencies that seem to stand back and allow a new mafia of sorts to run roughshod over certain local businesses and the tourists who frequent them.

The Nevada Taxicab Authority (TA) and the Nevada Transportation Authority (NTA) are state agencies charged with enforcing a number of laws designed to protect the traveling public from being ripped off.  Both agencies are governed by appointed directors, a  position coveted by many aspiring politicians, or those who like to be wined and dined in exchange for favors -- favors that include the maintenance of our state's monopolistic transportation industry.

(Editor's note: Steve Miller is a former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner.)

"The purpose of this letter is to apprise you of future regulatory enforcement actions (emphasis added) that may affect employees who work within your property's valet parking and transportation areas."

These were the opening words of a June 27, 2008 letter authored by  Mendy K. Elliott, Director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry. The letter was sent to most local hotel and casino managers.

"As you are probably aware, the Nevada Taxicab Authority (TA) regulates the taxicab industry within Clark County and the Nevada Transportation Authority (NTA) regulates, among other things, the charter limousine industry statewide. The two agencies have entered into a cooperative agreement in an effort to combat a sharp increase in unlawful activity including, but not limited to: soliciting passengers in violation of Nevada Administrative Code 706.228, charging non-approved tariff rates in violation of Nevada Administrative Code 706.329, and unlawfully operating as a 'broker' of transportation as defined by Nevada Revised Statutes 706.021. The NTA and TA have observed and/or received complaints concerning the aforementioned violations occurring at your property. Of particular concern is the prevalence of unlawful broker activity. The observed increase in unlawful conduct in and around passenger loading areas is at minimum facilitated—and often coordinated—by property staff. Passenger loading zone coordinators and in particular, doormen, direct passengers to certain limousine and taxicab drivers. In return, the drivers provide 'kickbacks' for such business referrals. This activity is expressly forbidden by the Nevada Administrative Code and Nevada Revised Statutes. Accordingly, the NTA and TA intend to fulfill our statutory and regulatory duty to issue citations to the individuals who have committed—and continue to commit—these violations."

"Please be advised that enforcement officers from the TA and NTA have been instructed to issue a verbal warning upon the first instance that an individual is observed unlawfully brokering transportation services. A citation will be issued to the individual upon a second or subsequent alleged violation."

Following the release of the letter, Mendy Elliott was immediately transferred to another state agency. After her sudden departure, no verbal warnings or citations were ever issued. The subject was swept under the carpet and never mentioned again.

Mendy K. Elliott, was replaced by a hand picked woman with ties to Governor Jim Gibbons and his handler Sig Rogich.  Rogich is a paid lobbyist who performs duties for several Las Vegas cab and limo companies.

Since the removal of Elliott, the Nevada Taxi Authority has become a rogue state agency allowing a multitude of illegal activities to continue that benefit a few taxi and limo companies, certain topless bars, and a number of hotel doormen and concierges who divide cash taken from tourists with certain taxi and limo drivers who are in on the scam.

On August 10, 2009, I wrote about the problem in an column entitled "Officials Allow Limo/Doorman Extortion Scam To Continue." In the column, I published Elliott's letter in its entirety and questioned her removal. Even after putting the two state agencies on notice, they ignored Elliott's letter, and refused to stop what had become a multi-hundred million dollar per year cash extortion racket.

Other reporters were also writing about the blatant malfeasance of the Taxicab Authority, and several confidential news sources were developed within the above industries and state agencies.

Several state employees -- some with peace officer status -- contacted journalists. They said they wanted the public to know what was going on within their agencies because it was adversely affecting tourism during a down time in our state's economy. Soon thereafter, Gordon Walker, the Administrator of the Nevada Taxicab Authority, went into a protective mode and has since begun a more-than-obvious campaign to punish some of those whistle blowers and news sources.

Walker's attorney is coincidentally Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto, the daughter of Walker's predecessor the late Manny Cortez.  Manny served as Administrator of the state Taxicab Authority during the 1970's, so his daughter is well versed on the how the agency runs. At taxpayer's expense, she is currently prosecuting one or more TA whistle blowers.

The following KLAS TV News stories and streaming videos by veteran reporter George Knapp describe several of Walker's very questionable actions.  In order to understand the basis of this INSIDE VEGAS column, please take a few minutes and watch these videos:

The above TV news stories are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to political corruption on our state. Many of the owners of the transportation companies involved do not pay living wages, and welcome any form of private entrepreneurialism that will keep their drivers driving without the need of a union to guarantee fair wages and healthful safe working conditions.  This has also led to certain companies condoning the practice of "long hauling," or taking the longest route in order to inflate fares.

Two Nevada governors, both with ties to a lobbyist who does work for transportation companies, have refused to step in and govern the privileged license holders.

One of the governors even allowed hundreds of cab drivers to use their company's equipment to shut down the Strip in protest of a proposed law to stop kickbacks. That's how much power some cab and limo company owners have in our state!

As a former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner (RTC), I did not have authority over cabs and limos, but I did have influence over the former operator of our town's bus system. Within weeks of being appointed to the prestigious RTC board, the former president of the city bus company offered me a $10,000 bribe. I had pledged to improve the public transit service in our valley, and that would cost the existing company dearly. So the bribe was presented.

After I turned it down, I devoted my term on the RTC to putting his transit bus company out of business. The company sued me for interfering in their business, but I continued working undaunted until their fifty year franchise was revoked during my last year in office.

In other words, here in Nevada it does not surprise me to see directors and commissioners appointed to serve on public boards and bodies  secretly doing the bidding of the entities they're entrusted to oversee. Therefore, I believe that some of the appointed members of the Nevada Taxicab Authority and Nevada Transportation Authority are on the take. Otherwise, why was Ms. Elliott's letter ignored? And why are those within the agencies who stepped forward to tell their stories to journalists being arrested and harassed by our state's Attorney General, the daughter of the former TA Excutive Director?

The actions shown in the KLAS TV News stories linked to in this column indicate a deep rooted corruption that is hurting our city's primary financial base; tourism. Also, the fact that Nevada state agencies who are letting this happen continue to exist without scrutiny signifies a reason why Nevada is unable to diversify its economy. Legitimate businesses would not want to operate in such a corrupt political environment.

The crimes being committed have been allowed to continue for too many years to just be coincidence! And what is happening to the whistle blowers tells it all.

The Internal Revenue Service recently began an investigation into transportation driver and hotel doormen cash pay offs and kickbacks They did so because those entrusted to enforce laws within our state refused.

Now that this story is being told, I hope that those who bring shame upon our state and rip off our tourists, are brought to justice promptly. The citizens of Nevada deserve better.


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