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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:

Ousted Vegas officials may be indicted
in organized crime probe
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
August 18, 2003
                 Erin Kenny                              Dario Herrera                                Mike McDonald                              Lance Malone

Four Vegas politicians go down hard, more to come...

In a town where is appearance is everything, former politicians Erin Kenny, Dario Herrera, Mike McDonald and Lance Malone had it all - looks, youth, fame, status, and the chance to drink from the public's trough. Then the sky fell in.

In the eyes of the voters, Erin and Dario sitting together on the powerful Clark County Commission resembled Barbie and Ken, but in the eyes of the FBI they looked more like Bonnie and Clyde. The rich and powerful bowed to them, but behind the scenes much was happening that would be the harbinger of the biggest political corruption probe this callous city has ever seen, a probe that would spill over into San Diego, California and beyond, and would end the political careers of some of Nevada's most promising.

The two former commissioners were so popular that only last year each sought higher office and were heavily favored to win. Kenny ran for Nevada Lieutenant Governor, and former male model Herrea ran for Congress. However, both promising political careers came to a screeching halt when it was learned they were involved with persons who did not have the public's interests at heart.

Former policeman Malone, who was on the prestigious county commission through the late 1990's, lost his bid for reelection in 2000 because of conflicts of interests. Then this year, McDonald, also an ex-cop, suffered the same fate on the city council because of whom he chose to associate with.

For the past several years it has been suspected that a new Mob has moved in on Sin City. The new breed wear three piece suits, have beach houses in Southern California, and some even have law degrees, but make no mistake, they're cut from the same cloth gangsters of lore once wore. Their aim, until recent events, was to corrupt local politicians and buy protection from local law enforcement so they can ply their trades with impunity.

Their crimes of choice? Money laundering, credit card fraud, coercion, prostitution and narcotics, battery, and bribery. Their new venues? A few Sin City topless joints.

Erin Kenny is expected to plead guilty to charges she accepted money from local strip bars and developers to do their bidding on the commission, while Herrera, McDonald and Malone have not made public statements but are sure to be spilling their guts behind the scenes. More names are certain to surface within the next few weeks.

I was the first writer to cover this ever growing story. Back in 2001, I happened onto a transcript of a county commission meeting that inspired me to pen the following commentary. I never imagined how big the story would become.

Are There Double Standards For Nudie Bar Applicants?
COLUMN: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
January 24, 2001

In May 1999, Clark County Commissioners Bruce Woodbury, Mary Kincaid and Yvonne Atkinson Gates, along with Lt. Tim Leveque of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and county Business License Director Ardel Jorgenson pleaded with commissioners to send agents to Atlanta to investigate Jack Galardi, the owner of Cheetahs strip clubs in Vegas and San Diego. At that time Vegas police believed that Galardi was under investigation by a federal grand jury in Georgia.

Galardi wanted approval to build Jaguars strip club on West Desert Inn Road in Las Vegas.

The cost of the Atlanta trip was to be $11,000. Commissioner Dario Herrera argued that the trip was not necessary and that he could not support spending the taxpayer's money in that way. Commissioner Erin Kenny supported his stance. The discussion played down the fact that the cost would be reimbursed by the applicant.

Woodbury, Kincaid and Gates argued that it is not prudent to allow a strip club -- which would be the only one (at the time) in the unincorporated county -- to open without looking into the owners' background. The last background check conducted on Galardi was in 1990.

"We believe he should be investigated and investigated thoroughly so we know who we're giving a license to," said Jorgenson at the hearing. Even with this strong admonition, three of the commissioners sided with Commissioner Herrera who led the charge to deny the travel funding to Metro.

Since that hearing in 1999, Herrera has been appointed Chairman of the Commission. Herrera is also being spoken of as a contender for the new congressional seat. This takes big money and friends in the right places.

On the other side of the city/county line is the case of presidential advisor Sig Rogich. His application for a liquor license has been put on hold by the City Council to give more time to complete a background check on Ali and Hassan Davari of Houston, the potential buyers of Sig's property who want to convert it into a topless club.

The Davaris have adult clubs in Houston and want to turn Rogich's building into a club called the Boardroom (later changed to Treasures). The item was held because the city had discovered some criminal trouble at some of the brother's Houston clubs.

In contrast to Herrera's action in the county regarding Galardi's application, no travel expense is being spared by the city in the quest to learn all there is about the Davaris. Of course, Councilman Mike McDonald is abstaining on the issue because of his close friendship with competing topless club owner Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo.

In 1999, Commissioner Herrera wanted investigators to limit their inquiry to intelligence they could gather locally on Galardi. Today, the City Council wants unlimited intelligence gathered on the Davaris. What's the difference?

Some speculate that since the city was accused of allowing strip club owner Rizzolo to complete a 6,000-square-foot addition and then seek and receive a zoning change after the addition was built and open, that the latest version of the council under Mayor Oscar Goodman is being more careful than when his predecessor Jan Jones was Mayor.

Jones and McDonald were noted as frequent visitors to Rizzolo's Canyon Gate home and took some heat for it. Nonetheless, Rizzolo's expansion was approved after the fact and resulted in a nasty lawsuit brought against the city by nearby property owners.

Based on the difference between the behavior of city and county elected leaders on the same subject -- the county limiting their inquiry to intelligence they can gather locally -- and the city looking to other states to fully investigate nudie bar applicants, I cannot help but wonder if there is a double standard?

Or is it a case of who you know?

Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera may need to answer this question before he decides to run for higher office.

© Copyright 2001, Steve Miller

One month following my story, the Davari's were reluctantly granted their license but were made subject to a review by the city council six months after the club opened. More significantly, per orders of Mayor Oscar Goodman, the brothers promised to surrender their liquor license without a legal challenge if any of the club's dancers are convicted on sexual misconduct charges. This, in contrast to special treatment afforded Rizzolo's business which has a long history of ongoing problems ignored by the city council and local law enforcement agencies, problems so vast that federal intervention was being considered more than two years ago.

Then, nothing happened for more than two years until the proverbial "shit hit the fan!" Without warning, on February 20, 2003, the FBI and IRS descended on the Crazy Horse and seized truckloads of financial records, videotapes, and computers from Rizzolo's office. The Crazy Horse raid commenced the political demise of Rizzolo's flunky on the council, Mike McDonald, who was handily defeated in the Spring election. It was also the spark that ignited the additional probes that are currently shaking our town's fragile foundation.

   Mayor Goodman visiting my home, February 21, 2003
The day after the raid, I suddenly found Mayor Goodman at my doorstep. He told me he could not bring the Crazy Horse up on an administrative action (show cause hearing) while it is under federal investigation. I strongly disagreed and told him he must treat Rizzolo the same as he threatened to treat the Davaris. The mayor did nothing and the problems at the Crazy Horse continued undaunted. This caused speculation that Goodman maintains ties to his former law firm's organized crime clients including Joey Cusumano, a close associate of Rizzolo. Cusumano has long been suspected of having hidden ownership in the Crazy Horse.

In May, 2003, the same federal agents raided two more Vegas strip clubs -- Cheetahs and Jaguars owned by Jack and Mike Galardi -- as well as the downtown offices of Galardi Enterprises. Simultaneously federal agents were searching the Cheetahs in San Diego and the offices of three councilmen at San Diego City Hall looking for evidence of political payoffs.

Before the dust settles, I predict that a cadre of Sin City politicians will get caught up in the probe with several possibly spending time in the fed slammer for "consorting with persons of ill repute." All this just for wanting a piece of the "good life" enjoyed by our town's new underworld, a group of folks that don't even live here.

In the near future, I predict we will hear a lot from the California hamlet of Newport Beach, a place where many of our town's corrupters feel safe while commuting to Vegas in private jets to do their dirty work. However, they soon will learn that Surf City offers no respite from their wrongdoing in Sin City. With federal sharks sensing blood in the water, they'll find no safe harbor.

Copyright © Steve Miller

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