Paper can’t resist one more dig at departing CEO

This just might be the definition of beating a dead horse.

After numerous banner stories about lavish spending at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the use of taxpayer purchased airline gift cards for personal travel and the golden parachute for retiring CEO Rossi Ralenkottter, the morning newspaper manages to lob one more dart in the form of a banner story.

This piece quotes Ralenkotter as saying at a board meeting this past week about the hotel room tax that funds the operation, “It’s not a tax that’s on the people who live here, and we need to continue that messaging.”

The next paragraph begs to differ, noting that, while the vast majority of the hotel room tax is paid by tourists, state residents pay “tens of millions of dollars” in room taxes. The story then goes on to regale with accounts of poor people living in hotels, people from other counties coming to Clark County for business or pleasure and locals on so-called staycations. The story reports that a government survey of the homeless found about 2 percent typically stay at a hotel or motel at night, which costs an extra 13 to 14 percent due to the room tax.

The headline on an emailed alert about this story sent out Monday evening really rubbed it in: “Clark County room tax hauls in millions from poor Nevadans.”

Not until the last leg of the jump is it reported that the LVCVA itself estimates that 5 percent of the room tax is paid by state residents — or $36.9 million out of $738 million.

One last dig at the departing Ralenkotter? We doubt it.

This account did not end with the obligatory italicized disclaimer stating that the paper is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson and that company operates a convention center that competes with the LVCVA. An oversight surely.

Convention authority plays Robin Hood in reverse

Brazen.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Board voted 13-1 Tuesday to give retiring CEO Rossi Ralenkotter a lovely parting gift worth $455,000, according to the morning newspaper. Talk about robbing the poor to give to the rich. Ralenkotter, 71, made $860,000 a year in pay and benefits and will get a taxpayer-funded public employee pension of at least $350,000 a year for the rest of his life.

How any of this lucrative cash out is of any benefit whatsoever to the taxpayers, no one bothered to even try to explain as they manned the shovels and scooped out money.

This was after Ralenkotter spent tax money like a drunken sailor — no offense to drunken sailors — to lavish gifts on unknown persons for unknown reasons, used $17,000 in airline gift cards purchased nefariously by the agency for personal trips and left $50,000 in airline gift cards unaccounted for. Yes, he reimbursed the agency for the gift cards after he was caught red-handed by an audit. The vote came during an hours-long meeting at which Ralenkotter was praised to the rafters for his sterling leadership and accomplishments, all while police officers reportedly investigating his possible misdeeds sat in the back row.

Brazen.

Not that Metro police will ever deign to file charges against the retiring CEO for, you know, taking public funds for personal use, what some might dare to call stealing but not us or Metro, nay, nay, but now there are 13 members of the authority board who might be described as accessories after the fact, complicit, aiding and abetting, turning a blind eye, fiduciarily irresponsible, shirking their duties, flipping off the taxpayers.

Brazen.

Of course, the morning paper is owned by someone who owns a competing convention center, as was dutifully noted in an italic disclaimer at the end of the story. While this might provide motive and explain why this topic has been a banner story for weeks and there have been a few critical editorial — including one today that called the board vote “a shameless disdain for the fiscal standards and practices necessary to maintain the public’s trust” — the facts have yet to be actually, you know, contested.

Errol Flynn would not play this role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of these things is not like the other

Two banner stories. Same topic. Different conclusions.

The morning newspaper and its insert both bannered accounts of a police investigation into spending at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The morning paper quoted a letter delivered to the authority by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police: “At this time, there is insufficient facts to support a criminal case against Mr. Ralenkotter.” It also noted that LVCVA Chairman Lawrence Weekly told board members that police had found “insufficient evidence” to charge CEO Rossi Ralenkotter, but he failed to mention the letter’s “at this time” qualifier.

The insert flatly stated that Ralenkotter was cleared and quoted Weekly as saying, “This afternoon I received word from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department that they have found insufficient evidence to proceed with any criminal charges against Mr. Ralenkotter. As you know, this reaffirms the findings from our auditors and legal counsel, as reported in the April 2018 board meeting, that Mr. Ralenkotter demonstrated no criminal intent or criminal wrongdoing.”

Nine paragraphs into the morning paper’s story readers are told: “But the police investigation into the mishandling of $90,000 worth of Southwest Airlines gift cards secretly bought by the agency is just beginning. Police have done little beyond picking up records from the convention authority on June 28, the Review-Journal has learned.”

The “has learned” is not attributed to any source.

Ralenkotter reportedly used $17,000 worth of those airline gift cards for personal travel and reimbursed the authority. The audit found $50,000 in gift cards unaccounted for. Ralenkotter has said he thought the cards were given to the LVCVA as part of a promotion.

The morning paper’s story goes on to quote three different lawyers commenting on events as if the investigation is ongoing.

So, has Ralenkotter been cleared or is the investigation ongoing? Stay tuned.

Anyone want to lay odds on whether Metro will ever charge anyone with anything?