Las Vegas Sun

June 3, 2015

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Surprise links, negotiated deals addressed by commissioners

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Justin M. Bowen

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak

Largely unnoticed last week was Commissioner Steve Sisolak’s abstention from a vote because of connections between a proposed construction project and a lawsuit filed against him by his ex-girlfriend.

How does ex-Henderson City Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion figure into someone’s construction plans?

She doesn’t. The item was fairly routine — a request for a time extension on a permit to increase the height of the Grandview at Las Vegas, which is off the far south end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Sisolak abstained from voting because the construction company associated with the project, Penta Building Group, was or has been represented by attorney Rob Martin.

Martin was the attorney retained by Vermillion to sue Sisolak and Clark County, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy and claiming they had released her medical records. Vermillion dropped the lawsuit last week.

Now Vermillion, Martin and Martin’s public relations adviser, Mark Fierro, are being investigated by Metro Police to determine if they tried to criminally extort $3.9 million from Sisolak.

Sisolak read a statement during Wednesday’s zoning meeting saying that Martin’s website contained a testimonial from Penta. He also said that during a Feb. 2 meeting, a representative of Penta told him “she had no idea that (Martin was) one of the individuals I have filed a criminal complaint” against.

But the item passed anyway?

It did. But something referenced in the commission discussion changed.

What’s that?

The Sun could no longer find any testimonials on the website of Martin’s law firm.

•••

Want to know how much former county commissioner, then candidate-for-governor Rory Reid charges per hour as an attorney for Lionel Sawyer & Collins?

County commissioners were flabbergasted by the rate — $500 per hour. One of Reid’s colleagues at the firm, former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, charges $650 an hour.

Nice work if you can get it.

Rory Reid

Rory Reid

But money’s scarce these days. So when the County Commission was asked to approve a contract with the firm and those lawyers, some commissioners got pretty angry. Not just because of the cost, but because commissioners who work most closely on University Medical Center issues were blindsided by the contract.

The law firm is being hired to guide UMC’s advisory board as it works toward a new governance structure that, hopefully, will save the county millions per year.

Why were commissioners blindsided?

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who chairs UMC’s board of trustees, said he was never consulted about the deal, which was arranged by County Counsel Mary Anne Miller. Fidgeting with the corner of a piece of paper during the discussion, Miller apologized for not talking to Weekly or board Vice Chairwoman Chris Giunchigliani. Weekly got up and walked out, saying he would not vote on the matter.

So how much money are county taxpayers being asked to pay the law firm?

It could have been untold amounts. Sisolak, however, wanted a cap and Larry Brown suggested a $100,000 limit. Commissioners refused to approve part of the contract that automatically allowed the law firm to become the county’s lobbyists on this issue during the 2013 legislative session.

A big reason for that: The law firm didn’t provide a dollar amount for how much a lobbying contract would cost.

So how long will $100,000 last?

The contract says the firm will be paid $15,000 a month for six months (plus rates of between $210 and $425 per hour for legal researchers and others in the firm). After six months, attorneys Reid, Bryan and Lynn Fulstone will charge their hourly rates at a 15 percent discount.

So, maybe $100,000 lasts six months, if that?

As Commissioner Chairwoman Susan Brager put it: “I need to tell my grandkids to go into law.”

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