COLUMN: Steve Miller

Las Vegas Tribune

November 30, 1999

Judging the ethics of the ethicists

I have been falsely accused on two occasions of filing "frivolous" Requests for Opinions of the Nevada Commission on Ethics. Notice I refer to the forms I filed by their proper legal terminology "Request for Opinion."

Someone at the state Ethics Commission keeps mis-characterizing my filings as the more ominous sounding word "Complaints" when there is no mention of the word on the form pertaining to the mission of the mysterious state body. I merely requested the learned opinion of the ethicists on several occasions; I never filed a "Complaint" against any person because a private citizen has no such legal right.

A pattern has begun to surface in the way this board functions in relation to requests regarding the actions of a select group of elected officials. In my case the ethicists have reacted in a very suspicious manner on two occasions, both relating to public officials who share the same political campaign manager.

In both cases, the ethicists on the board became suspiciously upset at my questioning the ethics of Former Mayor Jan Jones, and later City Councilman Michael J. McDonald.

Both of these politicians share a close relationship with local political consultant Sig Rogich. Mr. Rogich also shares the responsibility of being the campaign consultant to our two most recent Governors, both of whom selected key members of the Nevada Commission on Ethics – members who became upset at my choices of public officials whose ethics should be examined.

In one case, the ethicists on the Commission became so infuriated that they attempted to fine me $2,500 for asking for their "Opinion!" Of course, I have refused to pay their bogus fine.

What a chilling effect such behavior has had on the ability of private citizens to question the ethics of their elected officials.

Back to Mr. Rogich. Former Governor Bob Miller and current Governor Kenny Guinn owe their elections to Sig and his partners. Between elections, Rogich Communications handles the advertising and public relations of clients including the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Republic Silver State Disposal. Because of Sig’s extra-elections client list, his associations can be scrutinized, and I believe, considered "incestuous" in regard to recent Ethics Commission decisions.

In regard to my ethics Requests for Opinion regarding Jan Jones and Mike McDonald, bear in mind that both politicians are present or former officials of the LV Convention Authority, a Rogich client that pays him millions of dollars per year. His status with the Authority must be of paramount importance to him and his company. Both Jones and McDonald have voted as LVCVA officials to renew Rogich’s lucrative contracts.

In regard to my ethics Requests for Opinion regarding Jones and McDonald, both resulted in the determination by the ethicists that my efforts were "Frivolous." A front-page story in the Review Journal on Thanksgiving took issue with their recent finding regarding McDonald.

In a nutshell, my Jones request was extremely viable. It asked the Ethics Commissioner’s opinion of whether she should have used her official title of Mayor of Las Vegas to promote competitive to Nevada casinos in Detroit while not disclosing that she was also a stockholder in Mirage and Circus Circus, two bidders who were actively lobbying for Detroit gaming licenses during her Michigan visit. The ethicists concluded that my request be punished with a $2,500 fine.

Last week I asked the ethicists to examine weather McDonald should have disclosed publicly that he was the boyfriend of Republic Silver State Disposal’s lobbyist, and also disclose that he is the close friend of the company’s President and Attorney before he made the motion to grant their company a one hundred million dollar per year extension of their exclusive city contract for an additional twenty years.

The ethicists again concluded that my opinion request was groundless though the Review Journal and the majority of city residents took my side.

It must also be mentioned that Mr. Rogich, as the PR man for Silver State, had a lot to lose in the event that McDonald was found to have been unethical in his garbage company vote. Silver State is presently asking the City Council to approve an additional multi-million dollar per year sludge removal contract without competitive bidding, and McDonald is again a vital vote. If the company were to lose, Rogich could also lose a valuable client.

I am now convinced that the ridiculous recent findings of the Nevada Commission on Ethics in regard to my two Opinion Requests about Jones and McDonald are related. If either of these savvy polls were found to be less that ethical, Rogich Communications would possibly stand to lose future business.

Being a member of the Ethics Commission is highly coveted by its members. Each was hand picked, often by the Governor whom Sig Rogich helped to elect. Could it be that a pay back of sorts takes place each time a client represented by Rogich Communications is brought before the ethicists? I think so.

If my Opinion Requests on Jones and McDonald had been treated objectively by the ethicists, it would be possible that the future political fortunes of two of Rogich’s candidates – Jones and McDonald; along with the contractual relationships between Rogich and the LVCVA based on the votes of those two officials; and the fortunes of Silver State Disposal, Inc. based on the votes of McDonald, would be adversely affected.

It is timely to now question these relationships based on the bizarre recent opinions of the ethicists who serve at the favor of Bob Miller, Kenny Guinn, and their campaign manager Sig Rogich. It is time to pass judgement on the ethics of the ethicists before all the messengers are shot.


Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman and writes a weekly column

in the Las Vegas Tribune. Visit his website at: