Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011 | 2:01 a.m.
Elected officials, government employees and onlookers were dismayed last week at word that Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins had been hired to consult on behalf of Veolia Transportation Services, one of the companies in a months-long battle to win a bus contract from the Regional Transportation Commission.
Veolia, which currently provides bus service for the commission, is fighting First Transit for a contract to provide bus service for up to five years at a cost of more than $400 million.
Collins is not on the RTC board (fellow Commissioners Larry Brown and Chris Giunchigliani are), and he told the Sun that lawyers for the county advised him that his Collins Consulting is within its rights to work on behalf of Veolia. No conflict of interest there, they said.
But the law is one thing and perception is another.
So the question remains, why would Collins do it? Does he need the money?
The business Collins had with his wife, Collins Power Service, installed electrical power lines. The work dried up as the economy slowed and the business has gone under. Collins’ income has fallen by about $200,000 a year.
As a commissioner, his pay is about $82,000. He also receives pension payments from three previous jobs and owns three houses, two of which are paid off. He collects rent on one of the homes. Collins said he sold about 50 head of cattle and has switched from raising beef cattle to rodeo stock, which can produce more income.
On the expenses side, Collins said during the County Commission’s zoning meeting Wednesday that he leases 40 acres in Logandale to graze about 60 head of cattle and other animals. The lease-option cost is about $3,000 a month. He also purchased two horses this year for $11,000, and another 50 head of cattle.
Years ago, he said, he borrowed $400,000 against one home to purchase 20 acres for $1 million near Logandale. The loan included a balloon payment, which he couldn’t afford so he lost the property. But, he said, he is still paying on the $400,000 loan.
Weren’t there rumors that things had gotten so bad for Collins that he was forced to live in a storage box?
Collins chuckled when asked about this. He owns a massive storage box — it looks like the long, rectangular boxes you see hauled by a train or semitrailer truck — on his 40 acres. He said when he is out there working he sometimes sleeps in the storage box, which has a bed in it. “I’ve stayed there maybe 20 times since March,” he said.
Meanwhile, he lives in his Decatur Boulevard home that he shares with renters.
How much money did Collins make with Veolia?
Collins says he earned nothing. Though a payment was being arranged, Collins canceled it because he didn’t do any work for the company, which changed direction and no longer needed him for what it originally intended. Veolia had wanted him to figure out why RTC board members from rural areas uniformly sided with First Transit.
He said he never actually talked to anyone on the RTC board about Veolia. Collins said he was on his way to speak with one board member but the meeting was canceled. He added that his company, Collins Consulting, currently has no clients.
Hasn’t Collins’ consulting come under scrutiny before?
It has. A few years ago, he got a badge in the Legislature labeling him a lobbyist for Harvey Whittemore. Though Collins said he talked to people in the hallways, he never talked about issues affecting Whittemore.
Again, however, it’s perception. People questioned the propriety given that Collins sits on the board of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which has dealt with Whittemore’s Coyote Springs development over water rights.
Collins was never found to have violated any laws or ethical standards. “I just bought the badge as a precaution, so if I did talk to anybody in the halls, no one would accuse me of anything,” he added.