Tuesday, July 23, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
CARSON CITY -- Frank Romano says the State Gaming Control Board hid evidence that he wasn't involved in a slot machine cheating scheme by American Coin Machine Co. in 1989.
But the board says Romano of Las Vegas doesn't know what he's talking about.
The Nevada Gaming Commission will begin a hearing Wednesday in Las Vegas on Romano's petition to restore his gaming license and refund the $275,000 fine he paid.
Romano was partners with his brother-in-law, Rudolph M. LaVecchia, and his father-in-law, Rudolph LaVecchia, in American Coin, which was accused of putting rigged slot machines at 60 locations in Clark County from 1986 to 1989.
Romano agreed to a stipulated settlement, surrendered his license and paid the fine. The LaVecchias also lost their licenses and each was fined $362,500.
Romano, through his lawyer, Edward Coleman of Las Vegas, contends in pre-hearing briefs that his rights were violated by the failure of the board to disclose evidence that would have exonerated him.
Romano refers to a memorandum in 1989 from Walt Ramey, former deputy chief of enforcement for the board, to Metro Police Detective Thomas Dillard. In it, Ramey quotes Larry Volk, the informant for the board, as saying that Romano was not involved in any of the discussions about the cheating.
Volk, who was murdered after the case was settled, also is quoted as saying Romano did not know about the computer programs used to fix the machines.
In asking the commission to reopen the case, Romano says the Control Board had this evidence but never let him know about it. And he complains now that the board is "hiding behind its claim of confidentiality and executive privilege" in refusing to reveal any more evidence.
Deputy Attorney General Charlotte Matanane, representing the board, said the claim that the evidence clears Romano is unfounded.
She said Volk only testified he did not know whether Romano was aware of the cheating.
"Such evidence does not prove Romano had no knowledge of the illegal conduct," Matanane said. She added that a Nevada Supreme Court ruling held that the board does not have to reveal all the evidence it collects in an investigation.
Coleman also sought to subpoena former Control Board member Gerald Cunningham and all the members of the board. But the commission stayed the issuance of the subpoenas until it hears more arguments at the hearing.
Coleman also claimed Romano's former lawyer, Jeffrey Clontz, did not give him adequate representation when the charges were filed against him. He said Romano had a property right and that entitled him to the constitutional guarantees of the competent help of a lawyer.
The board said Clontz fought the case, asking for and getting documents and other information.
"A party with privately retained counsel does not have any right to a new trial in a civil suit because of inadequate counsel," Matanane said.
She said Clontz made a "tactical move" in agreeing to give up the license and pay the fine. If Romano has a problem with Clontz, he could file a malpractice suit, Matanane said.
The commission also will hear conflicting arguments on whether it has the authority to reopen the case and whether Romano was under undue pressure in signing the stipulation.
The hearing starts at 10 a.m. at the gaming board offices in Las Vegas at 555 E. Washington Ave.