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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:

Hypocrisy - Sin City Style
Connecting the Dots
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
March 24, 2003
       On November 21, 2000, Mayor Oscar Goodman signed a Recall McDonald Petition.
  On March 21, 2003, Goodman put a McDonald sign on his lawn. Who changed his mind?
He's a "government rat," a "wimp," "vermin," "a piece of garbage," the "lowest form of human being," and a "sleaze ball." "I'm going to get rid of him." "I have no use for him." - Mayor Oscar Goodman on Mike McDonald - 11/10/2000, & 11/11/2000

This is how Oscar Goodman described Vegas Councilman Mike McDonald in November 2000. A little more than two years later, Goodman proudly displays his arch enemy's campaign sign on his front lawn. Why did Goodman have such a drastic change of heart?

At first it looked like Goodman and McDonald would remain mortal enemies, but "To divide is to conquer." It now seems that Goodman and McDonald have much in common by way of mutual friendships with persons who seek favors from the city council.

     Goodman and McDonald
Before being elected mayor, Goodman was the criminal defense attorney for several people with close ties to Councilman McDonald. One of those persons was Crazy Horse Too owner Rick Rizzolo. Another was Joey Cusumano, the son in law of McDonald's former landlady.

On March 13, a citizen watchdog by the name of Robert Rose filed a complaint against Goodman with the Nevada Commission on Ethics. This was the first such complaint ever filed against Goodman. The mayor was livid!

Robert Rose in front of LV City Hall
In his complaint, one of many he has filed against wayward public officials, Rose stated that the mayor should have disclosed his relationship with the Crazy Horse Too strip club before making a motion to grant a liquor license to a prospective club manager last October. Other ethics complaints filed by Rose, a citizen activitist who is feared by politicians, have resulted in public officials being found guilty of violations, or severly sanctioned.

Since the complaint was filed, more connections between Goodman and Rizzolo began to surface. Most notable are Goodman's ties to Cusumano who is on the list of people banned from casinos, and to Tom Letizia who is Rizzolo's PR Director. In the complaint, Rose mentioned that Goodman failed to disclose these associations and others, a clear violation of city and state law.

In April, Cusumano, a reputed organized crime associate and one time business associate of Rizzolo, was spotted attending a party at the mayor's house. Goodman told a reporter, "Joey has been lovely to my daughter and treated her with a great deal of respect. I make no apologies...They made a mistake putting Cusumano in (the Black Book). In the frenzy of the Spilotro days, they tried to put everyone in...I invited him (Spilotro) to my daughter's bat mitzvah," Goodman said. "The only ones uncomfortable were the ones not invited," Goodman said of the attendees.

Unfortunately, that is not always true. A judge described the party this way: "My wife and I arrived to find some very interesting guests also attending. We felt uncomfortable and made a quick exit." The judge later explained that if he had been made aware of Goodman's guest list in advance, he would have made other plans.

Goodman was the defense attorney for Anthony Spilotro, the Chicago mob's overseer in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s. Cusumano was Spilotro's alleged lieutenant. Goodman once said he'd rather have his daughter date Spilotro than an FBI agent. Goodman was also known for saying, "There is no mob."

Immediately following the filing of the ethics complaint, Jim Ferrence, one of Goodman's campaign consultants stated, "It is a baseless complaint written in gibberish by a total moron who has never filed a complaint that wasn't campaign related."

When asked for his response to Ferrence's name calling, Rose, 76,  said, "Oscar forgave Mike McDonald, so I fully expect him to forgive me. As far as it being campaign related, he's running unopposed for Heaven's sake!"

Goodman did not take Ferrence to task for calling a senior citizen a "moron."

During the 1999 mayoral race, Tom Letizia placed $500,000.00 of Goodman's political ad buys and received 15% commissions plus consulting fees. Since then, Letizia is one of Goodman's closest unpaid advisors while at the same time he represents Rizzolo who is under federal investigation. Rose says Goodman needed to disclose this before making the motion to license Albert Rapuano, an alleged mob associate, as a manager at Rizzolo's bar.

Goodman did acknowledge last Monday during a radio interview that Letizia was Rizzolo's PR Director at the time of his October 2002 motion to license Rapuano. Goodman reasoned that since Letizia was not working on his reelection at the time of the vote, he did not need to disclose their relationship before making the motion.

Soon after Rapuano's licensing, Goodman accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution from Rizzolo.

Goodman also stated on the radio that he did not need to disclose his former law partner's representation of Vinny Faraci, another Crazy Horse manager, nor his own representation of Joey "the clown" Lombardo, whose brother Rocco is also a manager at the Crazy Horse.

Goodman licensed Rapuano just four months before 80 agents from the FBI, DEA and IRS, with guns drawn, removed cash registers, files, video surveillance equipment, computers, and unidentified materials from the Crazy Horse. Rizzolo has long been suspected of being a front man for Chicago mob figures who may have hidden ownership in his business.

"I decided too much has been going on and nobody is being held accountable for their actions," stated Rose after he filed the complaint. Goodman and McDonald are long suspected of doing Rizzolo political favors.

For example; maybe its just a coincidence, but Tom Letizia's cousin Tony Letizia is the Nevada Transportation Department's (NDOT) program development manager in Southern Nevada.  NDOT has recently proposed the taking of Buffalo Jim Barrier's leaseholds by eminent domain to make way for Rizzolo to expand his business. NDOT has also proposed an expensive - tax funded - signalization system and dedicated left turn lane into the yet-to-be approved expanded Crazy Horse.

Barrier in 1976, moved into the industrial center where the Crazy Horse later located. Since moving in next to Barrier in 1984, Rizzolo has failed in several court attempts to remove Barrier to make way for expansion. Now it appears he wants the government to do the deed.

When asked if his department was involved in the proposed eminent domain taking, Tony Letizia answered, "Number one, I don't know who Frederick Rizzolo is nor have I ever met or heard of him. Two, although I work for NDOT, I am unaware of a proposed project to provide access to a business. Three, Tom Letizia is my cousin not my nephew who I've not spoken to in years."

After receiving his explanation, I apologized to Tony Letizia for insinuating he had anything to do with proposed tax funded amenities to benefit the Crazy Horse. However, his response caused me to speculate that its the city, not the state, that is planning to help Rizzolo at taxpayer's expense. But this flies in the face of what Mayor Goodman said at his weekly press conference.

Goodman stated that the city would not use eminent domain to remove Barrier to benefit Rizzolo. However, since Tony Letizia's statement, it appears to some observers that someone at the city was fraudulently trying to pawn the responsibility off to the state transportation department to keep the mayor's hands clean. Since Tony Letizia denies knowing anything about it, and since he is NDOT program development manager in Southern Nevada and should be aware of such things, I'm starting to believe that the mayor is also aware of the eminent domain scheme and wants to pass the buck to another governmental entity so it looks like he is keeping his word.

Barrier has secured the service of the state's best adverse condemnation attorney and is considering personal lawsuits against all involved if an eminent domain taking is attempted to benefit a private interest. Recent Nevada case history shows that defending such lawsuits can cost the taxpayers more than the value of the "improvements." In 1994, the downtown casinos abused eminent domain law to remove a small shopping center to make way for a casino parking garage. Since then, millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted in a legal battle that has gone all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Then there was Cusumano's mother in law who let McDonald live rent free in her half million dollar Canyon Gate villa for almost two years. The villa was located down the street from Rizzolo's house. While he lived there, McDonald got in big trouble for doing Rizzolo favors at city hall. These favors caused McDonald to be found guilty by the city ethics board who recommended he be removed from office. Police went a step farther and requested McDonald be arrested on criminal misconduct charges, but the DA would not cooperate.

McDonald's troubles were at their peak the year before Goodman was elected. At the time, McDonald was being sheltered by Goodman's predecessor, Jan Jones, who was often spotted at Rizzolo's Vegas and Newport Beach estates. As soon as Goodman was sworn in, the rivalry between him and McDonald began. McDonald was immediately removed by Goodman from two prime appointments including mayor pro tem. With this action, Rizzolo's influence on the council began to wane. A peacemaker, someone respected by both Goodman and McDonald, needed to step in so "business as usual" could continue at city hall. This brings us to the present day, and the unexpected political campaign sign on the mayor's front lawn.

           McDonald's digs, 1998 - 2000
Today, while Goodman coddles his new pal and runs unopposed for a second term, McDonald's close friend and Goodman's former client Rick Rizzolo is bragging that he will soon be the beneficiary of eminent domain action that will conveniently remove his long-time nemesis so he can expand his topless bar. It should also be noted that Rizzolo mentioned the eminent domain threat in an interview weeks before the information was made public. Thanks to, every reporter, federal agent, and public official in the state of Nevada is also aware of the alleged scheme and the players involved.

Rizzolo and Cusumano appear to many to be the peacemakers who brought the two feuding politicians together in order to aid their ailing topless bar. The dots are beginning to connect.

Copyright © Steve Miller

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