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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:

Judge Issues Court Order Against Rizzolos
"This is a long-term storage issue. Mr. Barrier may
 park a maximum of seven vehicles," -- Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez

That night, several garage customer's vehicles had
their tires punctured with an ice pick!
 Lawyer Jon Norheim gives bad news to the Rizzolos         Rick Rizzolo points to "phony" Fire Lane
     (L to R)  Ralph Rizzolo, Norheim, Rick Rizzolo                                (Photos by Buffalo Jim Barrier)

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
August 30, 2004

For several years, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has been accused of doing favors for his former law firm's clients who are now associated with the Crazy Horse Too topless bar.

One of the alleged favors was to assist the bar's owners to harass their next door neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier by installing a phony "Fire Lane," and sending City Parking Enforcement personnel to ticket Barrier's auto garage customers who park there. The obvious goal was to make it impossible for Barrier to conduct business and cause him to move out for free so the bar's purported owner, Rick Rizzolo, could construct a new building. The type and manner of harassment could not occur without help from local government authorities.

                 "The Happiest Mayor in the World"
Mayor Goodman denies doing  favors for former clients at the
topless bar. When asked if he saw the Aug. 8, Dateline NBC
segment about violence at the Crazy Horse, he responded
"I did not see that."                        (LV Review-Journal photo)

When Barrier realized his business was being landlocked at taxpayer's expense, he turned to attorney Gus Flangas who filed an emergency motion in Clark County District Court.

On Thursday, August 26, according to court records: "Mr. Flangas stated that his client has a lease to run an auto and marine repair shop, there was a new landlord hired, and new parking regulations were enacted, which violates his client's rights as per lease entered. He noted that his client needs to leave vehicles in the parking lot, sometimes two or three weeks, pending repairs, but, those are now being towed away illegally. Further arguments made per Application for Temporary Restraining Order. He asked the Court to order 1) No more towing of vehicles and 2) Not to place any more hardship on his client. Irreparable harm is caused. Mr. Flangas also noted that Justice Court had ruled that the car must be 'noticed' before towing."

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez agreed, and issued a permanent Order stopping Rizzolo from towing cars owned by Barrier's customers or face a $500 fine and up twenty five days in jail for each occurrence.

Judge Gonzalez' ordered: "This is a long-term storage issue. Mr. Barrier may park a maximum of seven vehicles, which must be currently registered and licensed."

Following the hearing, it was up to Crazy Horse attorney Jon Norheim to inform his clients of the Order. According to the expressions on the faces of brothers Ralph and Rick Rizzolo in the above photos, his disclosure didn't go over too well.

That night, several legally parked garage customer's vehicles had their tires punctured with an ice pick.

On June 19, 2002, Barrier filed a multi-million dollar Harassment lawsuit against his new landlord, Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo, owner of RICRIZ LLC. The case was assigned to Judge Gonzalez' court. Trial has been postponed several times due to difficulties obtaining the deposition of Rick Rizzolo who is the subject of a federal racketeering investigation. But based on the urgency of Flangas' motion for an injunctive Order to stop the illegal towing, Judge Gonzalez last week scheduled a special hearing and made her ruling prior to the case in chief going to trial, something that should send ominous signals to Norheim and his colleagues at the prestigious law firm of Patti & Sgro.

       Buffalo Jim Barrier in front of embattled businesses
                                    (Photo by Mike Christ)

In 2002, shortly after Rizzolo bought the strip center that houses the two rival businesses, Rizzolo's attorneys made repeated efforts to evict Barrier. After the courts twice ruled that Barrier's long term lease was rock solid, illegal measures began being taken, some with the help of Rizzolo's friends at City Hall.
                    Barricaded  "Fire Lane" to restrict garage customer parking

The first salvo came when parking spaces that had been used by Barrier since he opened his business in 1976 were cordoned off with a red line, cones, and barricades followed by the City of Las Vegas Fire Department posting "Fire Lane" signs on the walls of Barrier's garage. The original Fire Lane had for over 25 years been on the south side of the alley where it provided clear access to the rear of the structure. After the purchase of the property, the Fire Lane was suddenly moved to the north side of the alleyway to evidently accommodate Rizzolo's wishes. Then, City Parking Enforcement scooters suddenly started patrolling the topless bar's parking lot and ticketing only Barrier's customers while not bothering Crazy Horse patron's cars no matter where they were parked.
City Parking Enforcement tickets garage   Rizzolo-dispatched tow trucks threaten garage
customers for parking in "Fire Lane"         customers while leaving  bar patrons alone

At night, the same City Parking Enforcement officials allowed the topless bar to use the new "Fire Lane" as a VIP parking lot.

Crazy Horse valets park customer's cars under "Fire Lane" sign

However, in their haste to assist the politically influential topless bar owners, City Fire Department officials neglected to notice something very unique about their new "Fire Lane." It contains several obstructions that would prohibit a fire engine from using it to access the back of the building!

LVFD sign near obstructions

According to Webster's Dictionary, a "lane" is: "a narrow passageway." The same Dictionary says a "passageway" is: "a way that allows passage."

If the City of Las Vegas Fire Department needed to use the passageway in question, their equipment would have to roll over eight concrete reinforced yellow poles and two high voltage electrical transformers located right in the middle of the "Fire Lane" and just twenty feet from a "Fire Lane" sign. To prove that the new Fire Lane was "phony," the old Fire Lane was unobstructed and provided clear access to the rear of the building like a real Fire Lane should.

 Poles and transformers (top) block phony "Fire Lane" used as VIP parking area at night

During the upcoming Harassment trial, certain LVFD officials may have to answer questions such as, "Who at City Hall ordered you to re-route the Fire Lane?"

In the Harassment complaint, attorney Flangas states, "... the principals, officers, agents, representatives and or employees of the Crazy Horse have been engaged in an effort to force Barrier from their respective premises so that the Crazy Horse can be expanded pursuant to the Expansion Plans. The said effort centers on a continued pattern of interference with Barrier's quiet enjoyment of their respective premises, interference with their respective businesses and harassment."

The complaint goes on to say, "…some of the Crazy Horse's efforts include: a. Participating in the setting up of phony Fire Zone restrictions using city property (i.e. Fire Zone Restrictive Parking Signs) on the parking area directly outside the south end of the Auto Marine premises, and threatening to tow and actually towing vehicles parked in the phony zones while at the same time using the phony zones for their valet parking at night. b. Harassing Barrier's customers and employees by threatening to tow their vehicles, and limiting the areas where they can park. Many prospective customers are hesitant to use Barrier's services because they are afraid that their cars will be towed if left with Barrier for repair. c. Coning off for its own personal use, the parking areas in front of the Auto Marine premises... which makes access to the respective businesses contained thereon difficult. d. For purposes of harassment, calling such agencies as the Fire Department to have their Fire Inspectors inspect the Auto Marine premises... , and calling such agencies as the City Parking Enforcement Unit to make special trips to the commercial center in the hopes of having Barrier's respective employees, agents, representatives and or patrons ticketed. e. Continually interfering with Barrier's quiet enjoyment of their respective premises, wherein for example, there are numerous incidents involving Crazy Horse patrons being intoxicated and disorderly outside the Crazy Horse premises, there are numerous fights and beatings taking place, and there is trash strewn about the area by Crazy Horse patrons."

The complaint then alleges that Rizzolo, "…acted with full knowledge of the consequences and damage being caused to Barrier, and its conduct was willful, oppressive and malicious."

In Barrier's Sixth Claim for Relief, it states, "In the absence of language to the contrary, every lease contains an implied covenant of quiet enjoyment. The covenant of quiet enjoyment is interpreted to secure a lessee against the acts and hindrances of a lessor and thus requires that lessor refrain from voluntarily impairing character and value of leased premises. RICRIZ breached this covenant of quiet enjoyment when it acted, as set forth more particularly above, in a manner that substantially interfered with Barrier's beneficial use or enjoyment of the leased premises constituting a constructive eviction of Barrier."

"The Conduct by RICRIZ if allowed to continue, will cause irreparable harm for which compensatory damages are an inadequate remedy. As a direct and proximate result of RICRIZ's actions, Barrier is entitled to injunction relief enjoining RICRIZ from further interference with their quiet enjoyment of their respective premises and from further harassment," states the complaint.

As he proceeded to park his customer's cars in the court ordered spaces for the first time since Rizzolo bought the center, Barrier was asked about the situation  He scowled, "This is so chicken shit! If the guy wants me to move so he can expand, why doesn't he act like a man -- not a punk, and buy me out instead of calling in favors from his stooges at City Hall, or messing with my cars. I have five years left on my lease, I pay less than fifty cents a square foot and I can't find comparable space that cheap that's only four blocks from the Strip, so I ain't goin' nowhere until it (the lease) expires in 2009!"

That night, on KTNV TV Channel 13 News, Barrier, a former pro wrestler, challenged Rick Rizzolo to a "Winner takes all" wrestling match. Pointing his finger at the camera lens, Barrier yelled, "Step in the ring with me. If you win, I'll move out for free. If I win, then you'll stop pestering me."

The next morning, he discovered the damaged tires.

But, Rizzolo and his "rogues' gallery" may have another trick up their sleeve that will require even more help from their friends at City Hall, and from the state Department of Transportation (NDOT): the misuse of Eminent Domain.

In January 2003, Rick Rizzolo was quoted in the Las Vegas Mercury saying, "Buffalo Jim is full of shit! Somebody filled his head with the idea that I'm going to pay upwards of a million dollars for his lease, but that's ludicrous. I'm not the least bit interested in his space. I don't need it. I haven't talked to him whatsoever." The article goes on to state, "Rizzolo says a street-widening project that's slated to get rolling in the next few years will render the whole conflict moot, as Barrier will have to negotiate with the state Department of Transportation and Rizzolo will raze the whole shopping center--including Crazy Horse Too and Buffalo Jim's auto marine shop--and build a new 60,000-square-foot gentlemen's club."

Curiously, Rizzolo made the above statement before public notification of any street widening plan, therefore speculation arose as to how he knew about it before the public was informed? For this reason, Barrier, who is a Native American, enlisted the Kermit L Waters Law Offices, the state's preeminent Inverse Condemnation law firm, to co-counsel with Gus Flangas if Eminent Domain is threatened. If the City or State should decide to violate Barrier's constitutional rights by putting him out of business to make way for the expansion of a mobbed-up topless bar, it could easily cost taxpayers millions to defend.

Rick Rizzolo and Mayor Goodman share an influential mutual friend in Tom Letizia. Mr. Letizia is Goodman's campaign fundraiser and doubles as Rizzolo's advertising and public relations representative. Tom's cousin Tony Letizia just happens to be NDOT's program development manager in Southern Nevada. Coincidence? With friends like Goodman and the Letizias, no wonder Rizzolo seems so confident he will never be burdened with having to buy out his neighbor!

But that may become a moot point in the next few months. The Crazy Horse is under federal investigation for a series of brutal beatings and robberies involving bar personnel that were overlooked by local law enforcement. In fact, all incidents of violence have been ignored by the City Department of Business Activity, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, and Clark County District Attorney since 1985 when Rick Rizzolo was alleged to have been personally involved in the baseball bat beating of a patron, but was not prosecuted. Since then, Jim Barrier has often been warned to avoid any confrontation with Rizzolo or his associates who are described as "a rogues' gallery of thugs, thieves, drug pushers, and corrupt ex-cops."
Rizzolo's associates:        (L to R) Greg Liosi,     Barrier's associates: (L to R) Psycho Sid, Goldberg,
Bobby DiApice, Joe Blasko, Ray Randazzo,     Barrier, Rick Steiner                      (photo by Mike Christ)
Vinnie Faraci, Mo McKenna (KVBC TV News)

In the meantime, Jim DiFiorie, the Director of Business Activity for the City, has reportedly been spending a disproportionate amount of time at Rizzolo's nearest competitor, Treasures, purportedly looking for late-night infractions of the dance code and prostitution laws. This, while beatings and robberies continue to be reported at the Crazy Horse -- one as recent as last month when a local attorney claims he was threatened with violence when he refused to sign what he described as a falsified credit card slip for $3,000.

Reliable sources say Mayor Goodman has been lobbying behind the scenes for the revocation of Treasures' license. The Crazy Horse has obviously suffered a severe loss of business since Treasures opened several blocks away in 2003, so the City's response was reportedly to threaten revocation of Treasures' liquor license if there was even one conviction for prostitution - and the first conviction happened last month. In the meantime, over 700 police responses to the Crazy Horse in a three year period are being ignored by the City!

Its anticipated that Treasures, to prove bias at the City's upcoming Show Cause hearing, will play the entire August 8, Dateline NBC segment about the September 2001, beating of Kirk Henry at the Crazy Horse, along with an embarrassing video tape of Mayor Goodman on August 12, saying "I did not see that" when Las Vegas Review-Journal City Hall reporter Michael Squires asked the Mayor's reaction to the horrifically graphic network expose' about "the dark side" of his city.

If the Council does not allow Treasures' attorney to make a comprehensive presentation including the showing of the full videos, Treasures will have legal basis for a District Court review of why the Council cut short their defense -- something that in the past has caused permanent reversals of Council-ordered license revocations.

There's another suspected reason for Treasures' troubles. Members of Rizzolo's "rogues' gallery" reportedly want to obtain the $15 million dollar Treasures building for dimes on the dollar with the help of the City Council. Goodman looks innocent because he's abstaining on the matter to supposedly avoid a conflict of interests because his son Ross Goodman is the attorney for the Treasures dancer convicted of soliciting for prostitution. (How convenient!)

While all this is happening, Barrier says he's praying the Fire Department doesn't need to rush to the back of the Crazy Horse building to put out a fire, because if a fire engine tries to use Rizzolo's phony "Fire Lane" and crashes into the electrical power transformers, innocent fire fighters could be electrocuted.

Steve Miller is a former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner.

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