Only in Vegas could a humble 33 year old police officer who had the good fortune to be elected to the City Council get away with flashing an expensive watch and not have to explain the circumstances behind its acquisition.
The 3 Faces of Mike:
McDonald on patrol, 1999 McDonald, 2001 "Councilman Clairol" 2003
When Michael McDonald first took office in 1995,
he pledged he would donate his councilman's salary of $33,000 per year
to senior citizens and live off his police officer's pay. It seemed feasible
since he lived with his parents in a modest 1,200 square foot bungalow
that they happily occupied since Michael was a baby.
McDonald family home
Shortly thereafter, the rookie councilman kept his word by donating TV sets to senior centers, however his benevolence was short lived. Several weeks into his term McDonald said he needed his council salary to help support his aging parents who were on a fixed income. His constituents loved him for his sensitivity to his parents, and wished him and his family well.
Soon things began to change. To his superior officer's
dismay, Michael began taking sick leave at the police department, became
a member of the House of Blues Foundation Room, began wearing Italian suits,
and suddenly started driving a new Lincoln Navigator (pictured in driveway
above.) No one questioned him until he moved out of his family dwelling
into a plush Canyon
Gate Country Club villa owned by the family of a member of Nevada's
Black Book of excluded persons.
Country Club villa valued at $500,000
Within his first year on the City Council, Mike surrounded himself with highly paid high school buddies who he used to fend off inquisitive reporter's questions. Mike soon earned the nickname "Flash," and began being seen regularly in the most expensive restaurants and social affairs with men of questionable backgrounds. Then the Rolex appeared on his wrist.
About that time, McDonald went under investigation by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Internal Affairs Bureau. The probe was based upon an anonymous letter accusing him of unprofessional behavior. The anonymous letter said that McDonald is allowed "to use his position as a police officer" in connection with Fred "Rick" Rizzolo, the proprietor of the Crazy Horse Too topless club.
"For obvious favors received from Rizzolo, McDonald has his fellow officers target competitive topless bars." The letter specifically mentions Little Darlings and Club Exotica, both nude nightclubs located near Rizzolo's business. The two clubs were coincidently cited by the city for serving liquor without a license. "McDonald is always at the Crazy Horse on Industrial Road with Rizzolo. He is able to entertain his fellow officers who target the other strip joints," according to the anonymous writer.
After Metro's intelligence and internal affairs bureaus investigated, "'allegations of inappropriate associations' were not sustained," according to Internal Affairs. However, a cloud remained over Mike's head throughout his new political career and his remaining tenure on the police force because of the coincidence of the investigation with his subsequent change in life style.
At the same time, McDonald was also accused of doing other favors for Rizzolo who is a close associate of Black Book member Joey Cusumano whose family owned the Canyon Gate villa occupied by the Councilman between 1997 and 1999. In late 1998, Rizzolo expanded his topless bar 6,000 square feet without the benefit of permits or additional parking. McDonald was singled out as being behind the action though he denied having anything to do with it.
Then came the watch. McDonald told reporters that it was a gift from his father - the same loving father who was on a fixed income and needed financial help from his son. When asked how his dad got the luxuriant watch, McDonald said it was presented to him as a "retirement" gift. (Mr. McDonald, Sr. must have retired as a top executive from Microsoft!)
In 1999, Mike McDonald suddenly resigned from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department after serving more than ten years.
This week, a political mailer arrived in mailboxes throughout the city. It was paid for by 68 year old ex-Marine Peter "Chris" Christoff. McDonald had managed to piss off the old Marine at a Council meeting and Christoff obviously wanted revenge. McDonald, who is seeking his third term on the Sin City Council and is trailing badly in the polls even though he has a million-dollar reelection war chest, didn't need his constituents to hear in such a way from an old enemy in the waning hours of his campaign. The election is on June 3.
Billy Walters has long been suspected of money laundering. According to the Las Vegas Sun, "Prosecutors have contended Walters participated in a conspiracy to place illegal bets with illegal bookmakers in New York and then transport the winnings back to Nevada. But three grand jury indictments against Walters have been thrown out. The state attorney general's office has appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court to reinstate the case."
Something else McDonald took a lot of heat over was not mentioned in Christoff's scathing letter to voters. In 2000, McDonald faced a state Ethics Commission hearing to determine whether he should have disclosed conflicts prior to a 1999 vote granting Republic Silver State Disposal a lucrative trash hauling contract. The vote extended Republic's $1.5 billion contract 15 years to 2021 without competitve bidding. However, the contract was not due for renegotiation for another 5 years, and McDonald's action negated the possibility of the contract having to go out to bid.
McDonald received $36,800 from Republic and its related entities for his 1999 reelection campaign. A company executive also threw a fund-raiser for him at his bar on Pecos Road in 1999 raising an undisclosed additional amount of money. So far in 2003, he's received $20,800 (reported), and that's only on the first of 3 reports.
Before McDonald helped the trash company, the entire top hierarchy ended up as plea-bargaining felons heading for jail. Thomas Isola, Silver State co-owners, President Joseph Anstett and Vice President Richard Isola, board member Aldo Lippetti, and employees Craig Carstensen, Carl Carlton Jr. and Frank Meccariello were accused of conspiring to cheat the Internal Revenue Service from 1989 to 1991. The U.S. government proved that the Silver State execs had schemed to raise Southern Nevadans' garbage rates by reporting false financial information. Even this revelation and the jailing of his friends did not deter McDonald from helping the company get a new non-competitive contract.
On Wednesday, May 14, McDonald was named in an FBI corruption probe of Vegas and San Diego topless bars owned by the Galardi family.
Following his checkered 8 years in office, many in Vegas are beginning to say that with friends like Rizzolo, Isola, Galardi, and Walters, Councilman Mike McDonald didn't need enemies! Now, the hands of Mike's mysterious Rolex are probably ticking off the final minutes of his misguided political career, and possibly his ability to walk the street as a free man.
Copyright © Steve Miller