Wednesday, July 19, 2006 | 7:40 a.m.
"Just in name only. I don't receive any income from it. I don't discuss cases with them."
Mayor Oscar Goodman last week, when asked about his ties to his old firm, Goodman & Chesnoff
"The mayor is actively and regularly consulting with me."
David Chesnoff, Las Vegas Sun, 9/21/04
"Goodman & Chesnoff all intermittently assist each other, and regularly work together on significant civil litigation matters on a case-by-case basis ... They handle each and every matter personally."
Entry for Goodman & Chesnoff in current edition of Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory
It would be much easier to take Oscar Goodman at his word if there weren't so many of them that contradicted each other.
And as the Las Vegas City Council, under Goodman's leadership, prepares to play "Let's Make a Deal" with his former client, Rick Rizzolo, His Honor's words betray him once again.
The difference this time, though, is that he may have violated a state Supreme Court rule and its analogue from the American Bar Association as he tries to have it both ways - and nobody does that better.
There are two issues here, and it's hard not to see how they are related. The first is Goodman's disingenuousness about his relationship with the law firm that bears his name - saying whatever is convenient at the time. The second is why he would think Rizzolo, who happens to be an old friend, deserves a lesser penalty from the City Council (aka Oscar and His Dwarf s) than the $1.1 million fine G-Sting felon Mike Galardi was given.
Let's look at the law firm first. Goodman claims he receives no financial remuneration from the firm, which would be readily believable if someone readily believable were saying it. That would be easily settled if he and/or the law firm released tax returns to prove it.
But even if he isn't receiving any money from Goodman & Chesnoff, he can only be on the letterhead if he is involved in the firm. "The name of a lawyer holding a public office shall not be used in the name of a law firm, or in communications on its behalf, during any substantial period in which the lawyer is not actively and regularly practicing with the firm," says the ABA Rule 7.5, subsection c. Identical language has been adopted by the Nevada Court Rules.
Pretty clear, eh?
When questions were raised a couple of years ago, Goodman and David Chesnoff were quick to say that they still work together. How to reconcile that with Goodman's insistence last week that he is on the firm's letterhead "in name only"? That's a clear violation of the rule, isn't it?
And it's not as if he can claim that anything has changed because in the Martindale-Hubble entry, Goodman and Chesnoff are described as "interlocking pieces of a puzzle, forming a complete picture."
He's either in or he's out. There is no in between when it comes to rules governing his behavior here. But he wants to - and has had - it both ways, depending on the situation .
With old pal Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too facing the potential of huge fines and possible license revocation, suddenly Goodman can barely recognize Chesnoff's name, much less Rizzolo's. He has no conflict, he says. He can participate and lead the council discussion. No problem.
Goodman said at his news conference that Rizzolo's sins are minor compared to Galardi's, so he condones the city attorney and Rizzolo's lawyer negotiating a settlement that would be less than Galardi's fine and certainly no license jeopardy.
It's not surprising that Goodman doesn't think pleading guilty to creating an atmosphere of violence that resulted in a tourist being mashed into a quadriplegic isn't as egregious as slipping a few grand to a corrupt politician. In 1985 Goodman defended Rizzolo against charges in a baseball-bat beating of a customer left with permanent brain damage. No, hardly shocking from the mayor who a while back angrily thundered that he might have to go back to "my baseball-bat days" when asked to respond to media criticism.
The mob ethos is never far away, and this is no different. Unlike Galardi, Rizzolo is not a rat. Unlike Galardi, Rizzolo was an Oscar Goodman crony. Unlike Galardi, Rizzolo consorted with mobsters, including old Goodman pal Joey Cusumano.
And now Goodman wants the council to make a deal, impose some paltry fine and not consider revoking the Crazy Horse Too's license. But, the mayor said, the council has his leave to disagree with him on Sept. 6 and impose stiffer penalties.
Now that would be a sight: public backbone transplants for Oscar's Dwarf s. I wonder what the mayor of many contradictory words would say then. Maybe he would call David Chesnoff for advice. Or maybe not.