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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:

Suck my big toe...
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
July 17, 2006

"Tell Steve Miller he can suck my big toe!" - Mayor Oscar Goodman, 07/16/06, LV Review-Journal
                  Las Vegas Review-Journal photo
by Cariño Casas
LAS VEGAS - Last Thursday at Mayor Oscar Goodman's weekly press conference, Review-Journal city hall reporter David McGrath Schwartz struck a nerve when he asked the mayor about my ethics complaint against him.

I filed the complaint with the Nevada Commission on Ethics on July 6, based on Goodman's insistence on defending his former law clients when they come before his council for disciplinary action.

The Crazy Horse Too strip club is about to be brought up for possible license revocation, and I believe Goodman has reverted to his previous profession - criminal defense attorney - when it comes to one of his former clients, convicted felon and Crazy Horse owner Rick Rizzolo.

Before being elected mayor, Goodman defended Rizzolo for beating a man almost to death with a baseball bat. Goodman did such a "good" job that Rizzolo got off with a slap on the wrist, though his victim died of his injuries three years after the beating.

At the time, Goodman was well known for requiring a half-million dollar retainer to secure his services.

Now, after he has twice been elected mayor of Sin City, the former mob lawyer is demonstrating his loyalty to his former client.

In an amazing display of chutzpah, Goodman at last week's council meeting told the audience that he once represented Rizzolo, but that was long ago, and because it was long ago he has no current conflict of interest. However, in my ethics complaint I also mentioned that Goodman once represented Crazy Horse executive Albert Rapuano, and just three years ago, Rick Rizzolo donated $40,000 to Goodman's uncontested reelection campaign, and that Goodman's current law and real estate partner David Chesnoff is representing Crazy Horse Too manager Vinny Faraci.

The mayor failed to disclose these other potential conflicts, something the Ethics Commission can't help but notice.

Following the meeting,  reporter Schwartz asked Goodman about his vote to bring the Crazy Horse up on a Show Cause action as to why they should remain open after all its owners pleaded guilty to felonies. Schwartz reminded the mayor that in 2003, he fined Rizzolo's biggest competitor Jack Galardi one million dollars for his son Michael's guilty plea to bribing San Diego and Las Vegas politicians. Goodman's response inspired the following story:

Jul. 14, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Mayor defends club's owners
Crazy Horse Too faces loss of license
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said Thursday the crimes employees and owners of the Crazy Horse Too Gentleman's Club pleaded guilty to didn't merit the maximum fines the city could impose... Goodman was asked at his news conference Thursday about the admission by the company that owns Crazy Horse Too that the club "sought to extort payment from patrons through explicit or implicit threats of violence, or through actual use of force."
"That is a lot different than bribing a politician. That's the integrity of the system. This is just a business practice that's entirely unacceptable," Goodman said.

The last time Goodman was so angry or protective of someone came in April 2004 when local ethics watchdog Robert Rose filed an ethics complaint against him for using his mayoral title to help his son promote a business. The Ethics Commission found Goodman guilty, and he responded by saying 80 year old Rose could "drop dead!" Just as he said this, Review-Journal photog
Cariño Casas snapped the enraged picture at the top of this column.

Back to my ethics complaint. In it Goodman is accused of violating NRS 281.481(1) and NRS 281.481(2): "In 2003 the owners of the Crazy Horse Too donated $40,000 to Mayor Goodman's uncontested reelection campaign.  Since that time, the owners of the Crazy Horse Too have been convicted of racketeering and tax evasion, however Mayor Goodman has repeatedly refused to take action against their privileged license, once stating he would not do so in the middle of a federal investigation though one year earlier he brought the Crazy Horse Too's biggest competitor up on a show cause action while they were also under federal investigation."  

I name Crazy Horse Too owners and employees along with Goodman Law Group member Chesnoff as "persons who might have knowledge of the facts and circumstances." Besides Rizzolo, Albert Rapuano and Vincent Faraci are named among those to be interviewed by the Ethics Commission. However, they may have a hard time interviewing Faraci. The latest word is that he fled to Cabo San Lucas to avoid extradition. Our relations with Mexico are pretty bad right now, so he may be there for quite a while.                     

Based on his "
This is just a business practice" remark, the ethics commissioners should have themselves a hey day! The last time they found Goodman guilty of violating the state's ethics laws, he flipped out and said their executive director had a "screw lose." Then he sued the commission in the court of a friendly judge, and won. The Ethics Commission currently has the judge's ruling on appeal in the Nevada Supreme Court. Now my new complaint gives them a second bite at Goodman's apple, and he's flipping out again -- this time asking me to suck his toe.

Galardi's strip club came close to being shut down, and his dad had to pay a million dollar fine. In contrast, Rizzolo's goons regularly extorted and beat up people who did not want to sign inflated bar tabs -- killing one and crippling another.

There's a big difference between Galardi and Rizzolo. According to "
Stripped: Twenty Years of Secrets from Inside the Strip Club" author and former Galardi bouncer Brent Kenton Jordan, Michael Galardi never hurt anybody physically, but Galardi was never one of Goodman's law clients, therefore his bribing politicians did not qualify as "just a business practice that's entirely unacceptable."

In this week's edition of the Nevada Observer, publisher Johnny Gunn writes, "Goodman: Violent Extortion Of Patrons Not As Bad As Bribery, So Give Rizzolo A Break."

Its been three and half years since I first asked the mayor to bring the Crazy Horse before the council to show cause why they deserve to keep their privileged license. In the interim, law school graduate Steven "Captain Truth" Dempsey has attended every council meeting to demand that action be taken before anyone else is hurt. Nothing happened until last June when Rizzolo, his father Bart, brother Ralph, and sister Annette (through their corporation) along with 16 other goons pleaded guilty to racketeering which included seeking to extort payments from patrons through the use of force.

   Annette, Ralph, and Bart
(AmericanMafia phot by Mike Christ)

In the meantime, instead of shutting them down before any one else could get hurt, Goodman sponsored ordinances to let the bar expand, and employ teenage strippers! He also spent taxpayer dollars harrassing Rizzolo's next door neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier trying to get him to move.

Amazingly, after the Crazy Horse had been the scene of over 700 police responses in just three years including 9 for assaults and 6 for robberies involving bar employees, and was the subject of a Dateline NBC exposé, Mayor Goodman had this to say about his former law client's business when reporters touched a raw nerve during a televised press conference held on Thursday, August 5, 2004:

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: This week Dateline NBC had a program on the Crazy Horse Too...

MAYOR GOODMAN: I did not see that.


SQUIRES: Some of the allegations against the club that have been known for some time. Is there any appetite for a Show Cause Hearing...


SQUIRES: ...against the club, and why not?

GOODMAN: Ah, I've taken a position publicly, you know, that's no different than where I was before. I'm under the impression that there's a federal investigation that is underway or is taking place, and I'm not going to, ah, screw it up by having, ah, some kind of hearing in front of the City Council, ah, until somebody tells me that that is not the case.

SQUIRES: Given the facts that are known publicly that have been published, moving forward on that basis wouldn't screw up any...

GOODMAN: No one, no one's asked that other than "Captain Truth*," no one's ask me to ah, I, I haven't had a request from anybody to have an order to Show Cause.

JON RALSTON - LAS VEGAS SUN: Steve Miller sends out seven e-mails a day...

GOODMAN: Yea, right...

RALSTON: Give credit...

GOODMAN: I know...but, I, ah...Steve Miller is, ah, he's afraid of me. I don't wanna, I don't wanna, I don't wanna scare him. Excuse me...

SQUIRES: Are you looking for some credible outside source to call for this, or...

GOODMAN: Well I would would, I would assume that, ah, we have a Business License Department that I don't agree with on many occasions, ah, and ah, if ah ah they felt there was a need, I hope they would come forward and bring an order to show... say "Mayor, we're gonna bring an order to Show Cause." If they do that I'm certainly not gonna, ah ah, squelch it, that's for sure.

(L to R) Ralph, Jon Norheim, Rick Rizzolo

       (AmericanMafia photo by Mike Christ)
Then to make matters a lot worse, in February 2006, Ralph Rizzolo, Rick's brother who Goodman considers OK to run the bar while Rick's in the slammer, was arrested for Trafficking in Controlled Substances, and is facing trail on October 10, 2006. But that didn't phase Goodman either.

The city's own 34 page document details their case against the Crazy Horse Too and lists the number of guilty pleas of each of 16 employees.

                                             From City of Las Vegas complaint

That also doesn't sway Goodman who's beginning to act as though the Rizzolo's should get the Family of the Year Award from the City of Las Vegas! Last Wednesday, he told the council audience that "Rick Rizzolo does good charity work for the community, and he is my friend."

Rizzolo is not the first felon Goodman has befriended in his official capacity.
In 1999, Goodman was spotted entertaining Charles "Charlie Moose" Panarella at City Hall. Panarella who is listed in the state's Black Book is reportedly a member of the Colombo crime family and was convicted nine years ago on drug money laundering that involved a Vegas casino. When a story about the get together appeared in a local paper, Goodman threatened the reporter saying, "I'm going to bar you from City Hall if you keep asking questions like that," I'll bar you from City Hall!"

Goodman has also entertained Black Book member and Rizzolo pal Joey Cusumano at his home.

Remember, this is the man who once said he'd rather his daughter date Tony "The Ant" Spilotro than an FBI agent, so who am I to complain? This is the new Vegas, baby!

After being around town for 48 years, now is the first time I've ever felt so wrong for being so right! I've become the scourge of Vegas
café society for going against our poopular mayor. Even Steve and Elaine Wynn stopped inviting me over! But I just must continue my quest to stop the violence and corruption! I'm afraid if I don't, nobody will.

If acquiesce, that loud sucking noise you'll hear will be the sound of our Constitutional right to open government going down the drain.

Goodman may be trying to kill the public hearing as a favor to his former clients. The mayor in the face of overwhelming evidence insists that the Crazy Horse should stay open, and suggested -- like a proper criminal defense attorney would -- that its' potential two million dollar fine be lowered. He was responding to Crazy Horse attorney Tony Sgro's plea that the city not take "its pound of flesh." Sgro also had the gall to say "Mr. Rizzolo's heart goes out the the Kirk Henry family."

Just tell that to beating victims including (L to R) Scott David Fau (deceased), Paul Russo, Jermaine Simieou, Eban Kostbar, and Kirk Henry. They each gave their pound of flesh, Mr. Sgro.

Goodman also made this unusual motion at the July 12 council meeting: "I move to accept the first amended complaint for disciplinary action and set the September 6 date as a time certain for the hearing on the matter if it can't be resolved before then."
Resolved before then?

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian whose ward includes the Crazy Horse Too, red flagged on Goodman's "resolved before then" tag line. In response she stated: "I strongly believe we owe this open meeting to the citizens of this city."
That's an understatement!

Goodman made his motion following a plea by Rizzolo's attorney Tony Sgro (one of Goodman's protégés), that he be given the opportunity to meet one-on-one with all the council persons prior to the public hearing, something that normally takes extraordinary juice. Sgro with Goodman's help is obviously trying to resolve the matter outside the public's view.
Goodman agreed that Sgro should be given the opportunity to meet privately with the council before any public hearing. This demonstrates a Star Chamber mentality, and if allowed to occur, may indicate that the LV Mob is back in full swing!
Goodman's efforts to squelch the Show Cause Hearing could also be a  response to Buffalo Jim Barrier and I announcing our plans to address the City Council on Sept. 6. In the past he's been hesitant to face off with either of us in public.
                     ( photo by Mike Christ)

Frankly, I'd rather be attacked by a swarm of
malaria-crazed mosquitoes than
have Miller
and Barrier on my case.  -  John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 27, 2005   

The mayor is obviously trying to preclude this from happening while also trying to lessen the impact his participation in such a hearing will have on the complaint I filed with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.
The public hearing has already been scheduled for Sept. 6. If Goodman's so called "resolution" happens in the interim which causes the public to be excluded from testifying, a violation of the Nevada Open Meeting Law will have occurred. The City Council is not permitted to be polled, or reach resolution outside the public's view, as is Sgro's intention.
It appears to me as a former member of the council and author of the original City of Las Vegas Ethics in Government Law, that the mayor's "resolved before then" tag line reveals his true intentions of keeping the public out of the process. This is why I filed my ethics complaint.
I anticipated just such an action and hoped my complaint would have discouraged such a megalomaniacal act. It obviously didn't.  So I sent out an SOS in my daily E-Brief.

My readers responded because they always say it best.

Lee in Denver writes:
"Steve, This was an 'unacceptable business practice?' Which, when reading the whole article gives the impression, he (Goodman) said; 'it's ok to kill someone compared to bribing a politician.' Am I going mad, or is my logic in the Ball Park?  Goodman, in my opinion, needs a Check Up!  His Tool Box has a Short!  The Voters need to initiate a Recall. No one has the right to discredit the importance of someone's life or safety.... and Goodman has done that!"

And another reader writes
regarding Goodman's uncanny ability to stay popular and garner votes at election time, "Amen, Brother Steve! It ceases to amaze me how these characters can be so blatantly crooked and yet still manage to win the vote. It just blows me away. I swear Paris Hilton could be the next mayor of Las Vegas just by saying 'Vote for me, I'm Hot!'"

But maybe it was summed up best by Johnny Gunn in Sunday's Nevada Observer when he wrote, "It seems that corruption is a way of life in Clark County, that a mayor suggesting to nine-year-old fourth graders that gin is the answer to all ills, and that being a 'known associate of mobsters' isn't something that needs clarification at the City Council Table.  It doesn't have to be that way, but if the general population doesn't care, why should law enforcement?"

Maybe it all comes down to sanity. Either Goodman is nuts, or I am for criticizing him.

At least I never endorsed gin to forth graders, or said "I'm going to run the city the way I want to run the city." "I will not let anyone tell me how to run the city."

That's probably it. He thinks I'm trying to tell him how to run HIS city! How dare I!

Nonetheless, if this keeps up, and the citizens of this great city don't protest, thugs will be allowed to continue skimming all the money from the Crazy Horse Too, Kirk Henry will get zilch, and Paris Hilton's chances of becoming Mayor of Las Vegas are getting better each day.

If I could tell Mayor Goodman how to run his city, I would say to immediately shut down the Crazy Horse before anyone else is maimed or killed and the taxpayers are exposed to liability for the city council's cowardice. I would also suggest that the attorneys for Mr. Henry place an immediate Attachment and Garnishment on all of Rick Rizzolo's assets which amount to more than the money he owes Kirk for breaking his neck.

But "The Happiest Mayor in the World" would never listen to a poor sucker like me.

Perhaps a reader put it best: "So now we know Oscar has a big nose and a big toe... well, two out of three ain't bad!"  .

* If you would like to receive Steve's frequent E-Briefs about Las Vegas' scandals, click here: Steve Miller's Las Vegas E-Briefs

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