bought from taxpayers in 1999 for
$894,000 sold in 2006 for
Crony of two LV mayors
makes a killing
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
August 2, 2010
LAS VEGAS - It was just revealed for the
first time that golf course developer Billy Walters parlayed his friendship
with two Las Vegas mayors into a 2,640% return on investment. It took him
around six years, but the wait was certainly worth it.
Back in 1999, Walters succeeded in convincing
the LV City Council to sell him 160 acres of city owned land for $5,600
per acre so he could build a golf course. This caused an uproar because
adjacent land was selling for $40,000 per acre. Nonetheless, the council
voted 6 to 1 in his favor.
(Photo by Steve Miller)
A month after buying the city land, Billy
was offering 16 acres of "Golf Course Frontage" for $130,000 per
Billy did build a golf course of sorts,
but it didn't take long to discover it was not up to par.
After five years of neglect, I authored
several articles for TravelGolf.com. telling of Walters' lack of
maintenance on his Stallion Mountain golf course and opining that few golfers
wanted to play there anymore. According to the July 27, 2010 Las
Vegas SUN, Walters quietly sold the land for $24.5 million in 2006
shortly after declaring that the golf course could no longer support itself
financially. (Walters is a business partner of SUN publisher Brian
Not only did Walters buy the land for pennies
on the dollar five years before he sold it at an unbelievable profit, he
also obtained a sweetheart
deal on water.
Billy (right) somehow made a deal with
Patricia Mulroy (LA Times photo), the general manager of the Las
Vegas Valley Water District to pay 25 cents per 1,000 gallons. The
average course pays $2 per 1,000 gallons. Then he let the golf course fall
into a state of disrepair and told the city council he needed to rezone
portions in order to keep it open. The council obediently went along, and
Billy soon sold a large portion to Pulte Homes for the first in a series
of obscene profits from the once-taxpayer-owned land.
After my TravelGolf.com articles
were published, Walters sued the magazine to have the articles removed.
He won the lawsuit. As part of a settlement, Walters took possession of
the magazine, changed its name to "LasVegasGolf.com,"
and removed my articles. However, to Billy's dismay, I saved my
November 16, 2005 TravelGolf.com article on my computer. It
tells the Stallion Mountain story in chronological order including a list
of Walters' political campaign contributions to local decision makers who
helped him become filthy rich.
I broke the original story in 1999 after
a certified land appraiser testified that the city's land was worth more
than $40,000 per acre at the time of the $5,600 per acre sale. During the
council hearing, Mayor Jan Jones -- who was leaving office in four months
-- angrily held up the front
page commentary I penned, and said,
"I know what ex-Councilman Steve Miller thinks is true, and I take exception.
Land is worth what land is worth. You can speculate. Maybe someday this
will be worth a lot of money. Maybe it won't."
When "someday" finally came in 2006, the
land was worth over 2,640% more than Jones' crony paid for it six years
earlier! After its sale, the public was not informed until July 27, 2010,
four years after the fact, and the sale was barely mentioned in the one
and only newspaper article cited in this column.
To illustrate the cronyism that brought
this about, at one point during the 1999 council hearing, Walters asked
for a glass of water. Jones personally poured the water into her own cup
and had it presented to him.
Walters paid the city a total of only $894,000
for the city land. He did so with the caveat that he would charge low green
fees for locals, and accept a permanent deed restriction to limit the land's
use to golf course only.
Five years later, the low green fees never
happened, and the deed restriction wasn't worth the paper it was written
on which inspired my TravelGolf.com commentaries.
In my July 11, 2005, INSIDE VEGAS column
for the course," I went into detail how former Mayor Jan Jones and
her minion then-Councilman Mike McDonald arranged the sweetheart deal for
Walters that was later ratified by current Mayor Oscar Goodman. I also
told of a drastic change in McDonald's life style immediately following
his sponsorship of Walters' deal.
I have no proof, but a guy who makes a
profit of at least $23,606,000 off the taxpayers of Las Vegas with the
help of a councilman and two mayors might want to repay the favor.
This is one of those Las Vegas stories
that has never been told other than on these pages. One of the reasons
may be that our hyper-popular mayor Oscar Goodman (glaring at AmericanMafia.com
photographer Mike Christ) might find it embarrassing if the public were
to know of how close a relationship he had/has with Walters.
Before he bought the land, Billy got into
with the law. It was not Billy's first skirmish. Coincidentally, Oscar
Goodman was his criminal defense attorney.
When he practiced criminal law full time,
Goodman didn't fool around when it came to getting paid. He was infamous
for charging his criminal defense clients a retainer of one-half million
dollars. If a client could not come up with the cash, Goodman was known
to sometimes put a lien on their house. That's exactly what happened in
1988 when Billy was indicted for the first time and needed an attorney
with plenty of political clout.
Eighteen years later, Goodman has been
paid his legal fee, and his client made over twenty-three million from
the taxpayers Goodman is supposed to represent!
Being the only journalist following this
story, I took advantage of the City of Las Vegas Ethics in Government law
that I just happened to author and sponsor when I served on the City Council.
In September 2005, I joined with ethics watchdog Robert Rose and co-filed
complaint against Goodman.
Of course the state Ethics Commission found
him innocent, but the filing of such a complaint goes a long way in drawing
attention to a story the mainstream media might want to avoid.
Mayor Jones is history, but Oscar Goodman
is still our mayor and will remain so until the end of his third term in
June 2011. In the meantime, Billy Walters benefited hugely from our town's
real estate bubble, and his buyers and the taxpayers took a cold bath after
dealing with him.
In 2007, Nevada Attorney General George
Chanos initiated an investigation of Walters and his ties to LV City Hall.
The investigation inspired the Wall
Street Journal April 23, 2007 story: "After Big Wins in Las Vegas,
An Investor's Luck Turns. Authorities Eye Deal With Billy Walters And a
City Golf Course."
after the WSJ article, I received several visits from former Washoe
County District Attorney Cal Dunlap, one of the private attorneys hired
by Attorney General Chanos to investigate the Walters case. Dunlap was
then working for Senn Meulemans LLP, a San Francisco based law firm with
offices in Las Vegas and Reno, a firm that specializes in real estate law.
Chanos paid the firm $250,000 tax dollars to do the investigation.
According to the Feb. 17, 2006 Las
Vegas SUN; "He (Dunlap) has battled some of the finest legal minds
in Nevada and won, including the late Harry Claiborne, coincidentally a
mentor of one Oscar Goodman."
I supplied all my published stories to
Dunlap. He told me that A.G. Chanos had a very solid case, and Jones, McDonald,
and Goodman might be in big trouble along with several city staff members
based on the A.G.'s findings.
George Chanos left office in January 2008.
His successor Catherine Cortez Masto (in blue suit) dropped the Walters
case immediately after being sworn in as Nevada Attorney General, and forfeited
the $250,000 in legal fees.
This story with its obscene profits, cronyism,
political favors, lack of prosecution, "beautiful" people, and void of
news coverage is par for the course in the new Las Vegas.