Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2021

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McDonald ethics hearing nears

Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald faces a state Ethics Commission hearing on Thursday to determine whether he should have disclosed conflicts prior to a 1999 vote granting Republic Silver State a lucrative trash contract.

The vote in question, now more than a year old, extended Republic's trash-hauling contract 15 years to 2021 -- a contract worth an estimated $1.5 billion.

McDonald is friends with Republic President Steve Kalish and with the company's attorney Robert Groesbeck. He also dates employee Jennifer Simich.

Former City Councilman Steve Miller filed a request for an opinion from the Nevada Ethics Commission in October 1999 about McDonald's vote on the contract.

Miller asked whether McDonald should have disclosed those relationships prior to voting, or should have abstained altogether. He also said he was troubled by the campaign contributions McDonald received from the company's principals.

McDonald received $36,800 from Republic and its related entities for his 1999 reelection campaign for the Ward 1 council seat. McDonald beat Miller and several other candidates to retain his seat.

Kalish also threw a fund-raiser for McDonald at his bar on Pecos Road, raising an undisclosed amount of money.

Thursday's ethics hearing will examine those issues and two others.

After Miller made his initial request for an opinion, McDonald's attorney, Louis Palazzo, wrote a letter to the Ethics Commission to refute Miller's claims.

In the letter Palazzo said McDonald had dated Simich prior to the Republic vote, but he was no longer dating her at the time the contract arose. In fact, the two have had an ongoing relationship, seen holding hands in public and attending many functions together.

Simich joined with McDonald's family at a council meeting two weeks ago to honor McDonald's father John on his 75th birthday.

In January, a two-member Ethics Commission panel found sufficient evidence to go forward with a full open hearing on the matter.

Commission Chairman Pete Bernhard also voted to proceed with a investigation into whether Palazzo misinformed the commission in his letter before an initial hearing on the matter in Reno last year.

Commissioner Hal Smith did not vote to proceed with the investigation. The 1-1 vote required an Attorney General's office opinion. The Attorney General decided an investigation was needed to break the deadlock.

The open hearing into the matter, complete with results of the investigation, was supposed to take place in March. However, Palazzo was defending Rick Tabish in the Binion murder trial.

A minor stroke suffered by Ethics Commission Executive Director Kenneth Rohrs also postponed the open hearing.

Thursday's hearing will be held in Room 4412 of the Grant Sawyer State Office Building.

McDonald said Monday he did not wish to comment on the hearing.