Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004 | 11:13 a.m.
Metro Police confirmed Monday that the agency's Financial Crimes Bureau is looking into a deal that lawyers Ross Goodman and Louis Palazzo claimed gives them the right to buy 85-year-old Christina Von Sturm's downtown land for $1.4 million.
Capt. Rick Bilyeu said the inquiry had not risen to the level of a criminal complaint, and he described it as "more of a question. We do not have a crime report on file."
Police, he said, have "information that a crime may have occurred and we're looking into it."
He would not elaborate. The information was forwarded to the police by Clark County Senior Services, which had received an e-mail from homeless advocate Linda Lera Randle-El. After media coverage of the issue, she questioned whether the deal with Von Sturm constituted elder abuse.
Ross Goodman, son of Mayor Oscar Goodman, and Palazzo filed suit against Von Sturm to enforce what they claim was a binding oral contract that gave them until January to pay $1.4 million for two parcels she owns, at 511 and 515 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
Those parcels are between property owned by the city at the north end of the block, and the former Boulevard Motel site at 525 Las Vegas Blvd. South, which Clark County Assessor records show Ross Goodman and Palazzo bought under the corporate name of GP Properties on Aug. 16.
Neither Ross Goodman nor Palazzo returned telephone calls seeking comment Monday.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman also did not return a call seeking comment on his knowledge of the issue, although he issued a clarification through a spokeswoman to a statement he made when questioned Thursday.
He had said last week that he did not know about his son's plans for property near the city-owned downtown site, which is at the north end of the block that occupies the southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Clark Street.
However, records for Redevelopment Agency meetings of May 5 and June 2 show that he abstained from voting on items involving the city-owned land because of his son's involvement in nearby property.
The Redevelopment Agency owns land throughout downtown. Its voting members are the Las Vegas City Council.
Mayor Goodman said through a spokeswoman his Thursday comments about not knowing about his son's land was a reference to 511 and 515 Las Vegas Blvd. South, the property that is the subject of the Von Sturm lawsuit.
The city land is to be developed as condominiums. The vote to allow staff to prepare request-for-development proposals was May 5. An action to secure right-of-way on Las Vegas Boulevard before making an agreement for the property was approved June 2, when city staff told the Redevelopment Agency that the proposals were about to be issued.
A committee picked by the Office of Business Development received proposals for the land in late July or early August. The sole proposal now is a joint venture between The Related Companies and Cherry Development to build condominiums on the city site, which occupies five parcels, including 501 and 507 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
On Aug. 18, Stephanie Boixo resigned from the selection committee. She is the mayor's chief of staff, and is the fiancee of mayoral son Eric Goodman.
Boixo did not return telephone calls seeking comment, instead issuing an e-mail statement: "As soon as I became aware of a potential conflict, I recused myself. I have no additional comment on the matter."
Boixo knew about the Von Sturm land and the Boulevard Motel site long before this summer, as did Mayor Goodman, said a woman who was handling the sale of the properties last year.
"He spoke at one of our commercial marketing group meetings, and after we did a presentation of haves and wants I promoted that property to him in front of the whole group," Glenda Shaw said. She said the mayor told her he could not make the deal, but that "there's always a way of getting things done."
Shaw said she had a previously scheduled City Hall appointment following that meeting because she had questions about parking access and future plans for the city-owned land.
In the city meeting, she said she handed a packet of information about the properties, including Von Sturm's and the Boulevard Motel site, to Stephanie Boixo. She said the mayor was not present and she did not know if he ever saw the packet.
Shaw said she stopped representing Von Sturm after that, in part because " I didn't feel she had the full faculties to understand a real estate transaction."
Von Sturm's daughter -- who with a lawyer now is publicly fighting the Goodman and Palazzo lawsuit -- was not handling proposals for the land at the time, Shaw said, and it became too difficult to deal with Von Sturm.
"I thought now is the time for me to back out of this, it was getting to be too much liability for me in my profession," Shaw said. "I didn't feel she really knew or understood what was going on."
Shaw said she was speaking out now because she heard about the lawsuit against Von Sturm in the news.
"Christina Von Sturm is a very special lady," Shaw said. "It's her I care about, not whether the mayor is involved or anything else."
When asked whether she feels that Ross Goodman and Palazzo tried to take advantage of her, Shaw said, "I have no idea, I know nothing about that transaction or what's going on with them. But I do have concerns when somebody tries to do a real estate transaction verbally, especially when they're educated.
"I could care less what's going on in the mayor's office but I do not want to see Christina victimized."