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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:

Billy Walters' and Fred Glusman's
political parties may end soon
Crooked politicians and stinking deals come
together at three posh eateries - two in Vegas -
one in Newport Beach - that share the same host.

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
November 21, 2005
                          Billy Walters                                                      Billy's Cili Restaurant
                                    Oscar Goodman and "host" Tom Letizia
           Fred Glusman                              Fred's Pieros - Las Vegas                Fred's Ritz - Newport Beach

LAS VEGAS - In recent history, its become apparent that a very small cadre of Mob associates are taking over our local government offices. But like cancer, if not nipped in the bud, the disease can spread.

Like bone marrow carrying infection to all parts of the body, it seems that what was once the exclusive disease of Sin City is now corrupting an ultraconservative beach enclave in Orange County, California -- a place with much higher moral standards than Vegas. Two stories surfaced this week to verify my theory.

In Vegas, Sunday's Review Journal editorial,
"Welcome to 'Septic Gardens,'" tells of how a connected golf course developer has taken over the LV mayor and city council, and convinced them to allow him to build thousands of houses next to the city's sewer plant.

In Newport Beach, two Vegas political movers and shakers are trying to buy the sheriff. When their names surfaced on campaign contribution reports, two investigative reporters with the Orange County Register on November 3, began identifying the men, but the stories went beyond the call by exposing for the first time one of the men's criminal record, and the other's bogus status as an appointed Orange County Deputy Sheriff.

gave investigators in Vegas an early Christmas present by writing of topless bar owner Rick Rizzolo's criminal record, then two weeks later reported that another Vegas political player, Fred Glusman, got into an embarrassing scrape when he flashed a bogus police badge.

Prior to the Register articles, it was not known that Rizzolo had been convicted of felony battery for beating a Vegas bar patron almost to death with a baseball bat. (The victim died three years later of his injuries). It was also not known that both Rizzolo and Glusman were trying to influence an Orange County election. Both newspaper stories make fascinating reading, though neither story registered a blip on the callous Sin City media's radar screen.

The Sheriff of Orange County, Mike Carona, has been accused by his political opponent of having Mob ties. The Orange County Register is taking Carona to task for his unsavory associations, especially when Vegas Mob wannabe's donate to his campaign and put on at least one fundraiser at their Newport Beach restaurant.

Glusman is well known for running a Mob hangout in Vegas, and now has one in plush Newport Beach. Both are sanctuaries for Rizzolo and his pals including Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Jan Jones, Michael McDonald, and other Vegas "Pillars of the community" who may occasionally want to get away from prying eyes and ears. However, the Register is hot on their scent, and the reason for Rizzolo/Glusman's campaign contributions and at least one fund raising party at the Ritz for a suspect candidate, is in their sights.

Could it be that Rick and Fred just want to be left alone when relaxing at the beach with La Cosa Nostra cronies? Maybe they're supporting the local sheriff to encourage him to mind his own business?

Back to Vegas. This week, I was asked to write a story for an international golf publication. My story, "How Billy Walters got beat at his own game," tells of how Vegas political campaigns have denigrated to the point that potential and incumbent office holders sell their souls to the highest bidders at a restaurant known as CILI that's owned by Walters.

Last week, Walters tried to call in political favors so he could convert a once-taxpayer-owned golf course to residential zoning. If approved, he could gain obscene profits by building houses within 20 feet of a sewer plant -- and for a fleeting moment, he got his way from a paid off mayor and most of the council!

LV City Attorney Brad Jerbic even wrote the agenda item in such a way that no one could foresee, or even comprehend, what was about to happen. Had it not been for the inquisitiveness of one council woman, Lois Tarkanian, the scam would have passed under the radar. Tarkanian, smelled a rat (or raw sewage) and called for a police investigation. Her call triggered a three month postponement of the vote and put her at odds with Mayor Oscar Goodman who does favors for his former criminal defense clients no matter the consequences to the citizens of Las Vegas.

The investigation found criminal activity, but that didn't stop the mayor from enriching a friend. He simply hid the investigation results from the rest of the council, and rescheduled Walters' item for November 2. Two days after the 6 to 1 vote that approved
'Septic Gardens,' the hidden investigation results were made public by LV Review Journal reporter David McGrath Schwartz. The newspaper story, along with Goodman admitting he knew of the criminal findings before Nov. 2  -- but didn't share them with his colleagues -- inspired another brave council member to call for a reconsideration. 

The mood darkened on the tenth floor of city hall where Goodman had always gotten his way based on his celebrity status (he played himself in the movie "Casino"), and his popularity with the voters. Also, the Clark County District Attorney, true to form, declined to prosecute anyone involved in such an elite rip off scheme.

Just before the vote to approve Councilman Steve Wolfson's reconsideration of the November 2 approval of "Septic Gardens," Nevada Attorney General George Chanos announced that a far reaching criminal investigation was underway that could incriminate former and present elected and appointed officials including a former mayor and councilman. Subsequently, the item was tabled until the investigation is concluded, and no houses can be built until then.

Walters left the meeting with egg on his face followed by his stooges including Mayor Goodman, City Attorney Jerbic, and Clark County DA David Roger, who all, by their actions, have proven they can be bought like pigs at an auction.

It was Jerbic and Roger who obediently told the press that some sort of statute of limitations had expired, and no criminal charges can be brought against those who were involved in this RICO type action that began in the mid 90's. Of course, their words sounded more like a way to protect former mayor Jan Jones and former councilman Michael McDonald who drooled all over Walters at the original 1999 council meeting that sold him 160 acres of taxpayer owned land for a song. (I originally broke this story.)

Its hard to believe, but on November 2, six (out of seven) council members went along with his scam, and voted to not only expose the taxpayers to up to thirty-million dollars in odor mitigation fees, but to physical dangers caused by being so close to explosive methane gas.

"How Billy Walters got beat at his own game," tells the sordid story of Vegas at its worst, and should be required reading for all reporters, elected officials, social and political science students in the nation. It tells of how the owners of posh restaurants can skirt Nevada and California campaign finance laws and provide venues for collecting unreported cash, and some later-to-be reported checks slipped into unscrupulous politician's hands. Enough to finance an entire political media campaign in one evening!

Funds raised at these restaurants need not be separated from other contributions and can be deposited into campaign accounts weeks or months later. Therefore the persons who attended the parties are not identified, nor are the amounts they specifically donated at the time of the events.

But, the politician recipient is acutely aware of who owned the restaurant, the host, and who invited the money-logged guests to attend! For that, most are forever obligated.

Enter Tom Letizia.

Letizia is the son in law of restaurateur Fred Glusman. Tom is also the political campaign manager and fundraiser for LV Mayor Oscar Goodman; the advertising representative for the Crazy Horse Too that's purportedly owned by Rick Rizzolo and possibly others who are not yet identified; and Tom is a very close friend of Billy Walters who was three times indicted on money laundering charges. Tom's father in law is also suspected of having hidden partners in his Ritz Restaurant in Newport Beach -- possibly Rick Rizzolo and his backers. But that didn't stop Mayor Goodman from naming Glusman "Citizen of the month" in 2002.

Tom,  more that most long time Las Vegans, is totally aware that the majority of local voters are so new to our valley that they'll vote for who has the most TV ads, and direct mail. Hence, the fundraisers at his father in law's, or Walters' restaurants. On top of that, Tom is a really nice guy!

However, I sadly believe that if it was left to my old friend Tom Letizia, Rick Rizzolo would get away with beating patrons with baseball bats just for sport; Mayor Goodman would never be forced to bring Rizzolo's bloody Crazy Horse before the city council on a long requested license revocation action; and Billy Walters could build all the
'Septic Gardens' subdivisions he wants! (Sorry Tom. Let's do lunch.)

In the meantime, the newcomers who comprise the majority of Vegas voters outnumber the old timers and northern Nevada voters who know the score, and may next year vote to elect Oscar Goodman governor of Nevada. Of course, Letizia will be paid handsomely for his campaign advice and fundraising efforts, and duped new-to-Nevada voters will continue chanting their new mantra, "Don't worry. Be happy."

The only good news is that reporters in Nevada and California are now searching through campaign contribution reports for entries listing In Kind contributions from certain restaurants, especially those with suspected Mob ties. For this reason, I believe there will be less of this type of fund raising in the near future, at least until another method is found to get corrupters together in the same room without having to report the event in the "In Kind" column. Maybe all this will
also trigger long needed campaign reform to tighten up the reporting process. We'll see.

At least, between the above words and links to ancillary articles, I've identified a bunch of contemporary villains in Vegas. Will my efforts make this a better place? Probably as much as the radio operator on the Titanic's frantic tapping of SOS with the longitude and latitude helped to save the folks who slipped beneath the icy sea that night in 1912.

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