COMMENTARY: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
August 8, 2001
Place the blame where it belongs:
A bitter battle took place on Fremont Street in the late 1980s when fliers advertising time-share vacations were being handed to passersby. Then, as now, the practice created a litter problem and hurt our town's image.
At that time it was determined by the former City Attorney that the activity was not protected speech inasmuch as the handbills were purely commercial in nature. The city put an immediate stop to the practice, and should do the same today!
Protected speech includes -- only -- political and religious communications on public thoroughfares, not commercial solicitation!
All newspapers are protected by the First Amendment and can be distributed from racks on public sidewalks or be handed out.
The so-called "newspaper" racks containing the commercial fliers are not protected, nor is the handing out of such materials. The fliers presently being distributed do not have a masthead, publisher's name or address, date of publication, editorial content, news stories, or bylines.
Commercial advertising fliers are NOT political or religious material, and are certainly NOT newspapers! For this reason, the handbillers along with the racks distributing their advertising materials CAN be removed from our sidewalks.
The Strip sidewalks fall under the jurisdiction of the Nevada Attorney General. Unfortunately, Frankie Sue Del Pappa allowed our town to be overrun with handbill solicitors, illegal advertising racks, fifty-three Yellow Pages of outcall ads, and boiler rooms. These obnoxious activities should become the main issue during the upcoming election to choose Del Papps's replacement.
A possible threat to freedom of the press:
Since 1999, I have been writing stories in the Las Vegas Tribune about alleged connections between Crazy Horse Too owner Rick Rizzolo and reputed organized crime figures. In that time, Rizzolo has never demanded a retraction or correction of anything I have ever written about him or his associates.
In an obvious surprise attempt to curtail my ongoing coverage of his recent activities, he filed a libel suit in February of this year against the Tribune and myself. He is now seeking to amend this slap suit to include civil racketeering charges against the newspaper, and me as an individual.
Upon being served, I immediately invoked NRS 49.275, the Nevada Reporter's Shield Law, and continued to cover the stories undaunted. However, in doing so I gave up all rights to defend myself if a judge takes Rizzolo seriously.
In the meantime, Judge Nancy Saitta has continuously ruled in Rizzolo's favor in two recent cases.
On March 15, Judge Saitta sanctioned Rizzolo's neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier $4,500. Then on July 6, she dismissed a wrongful death suit against Rizzolo in the Camille Fau case.
I am amazed that Judge Saitta seems to end up with all cases dealing with Rick Rizzolo!
Following Judge Saitta's two recent rulings, I became suspicious and did a background check on her. I found that Nancy M. Saitta had once been named as a 2nd party in a 1991 lien filed against a number of people including herself and Fred Doumani, Jr.
Mr. Doumani is the son of one of Rizzolo's business associates
I am continuing to look into the lien matter involving Saitta and Doumani to see if it is relevant, but it raised a red flag nonetheless.
On April 24, Rizzolo's libel action against the Tribune and myself was consolidated with the Buffalo Jim Barrier case in -- you guessed it -- Judge Nancy Saitta's court!
Since the consolidation of the two cases, Judge Saitta has not yet made any substantive rulings concerning the Tribune or myself. Based on this fact, I exercised my legal right to file a peremptory challenge, and on July 2 had her removed and randomly replaced with a new judge.
Now Rizzolo wants to strike my challenge and have Judge Saitta reinstated! I find this very suspicious. If Judge Saitta is somehow reinstated, the Tribune and I will have no choice but to file a writ and have her removed again -- this time for cause.
Deja vu - all over again:
In 1998, the state Ethics Commission capriciously excused former mayor Jan Jones of a serious ethical transgression. In fairness, the Commission must now do the same for Councilman Michael Mack's identical transgression.
As is the case with Mack, Jones also dodged questions from the media and was absent from council meetings during the controversy. Its amazing that no one has yet made the following comparison - maybe because of the names of the players involved in the two analogous scenarios:
Councilman Michael Mack didn't disclose a $60,000 loan he received from Courtesy car dealer Joe Scala when he voted against a rival, John Staluppi.
Former Mayor Jan Jones didn't disclose a $4.3 million loan her husband received from Bank West when she voted against a rival, Nick's Fish Market.
To clearly show the comparison, on June 25, 1998, City Hall reporter Mike Zapler wrote the following in the Review-Journal:
"Steve Miller, who lost to Jones in a 1991 mayoral race and is suing the mayor for slander, said Jones should have revealed that her husband received financing for a land deal from two of the restaurant's opponents…Jones argued the restaurant would have been too big for the lot in front of BankWest and led the council in a 5-0 vote against it on May 26. She did not disclose, however, that her husband, Richard Schuetz, is partner in a company that received partial financing from two bank directors (Bill Boyd and Perry Whitt) for a $4.3 million land purchase that was sealed four days before the vote… Miller, who lives near the site of the proposed restaurant, notes in his complaint that Boyd Gaming has contributed heavily to the campaigns of Jones and other council members. He did not mention, however, that the mayor called William Boyd days before the vote to set up a meeting to solicit contributions for her campaign. During that conversation, Boyd said he expressed to Jones his opposition to the restaurant. Jones could not be reached late Wednesday to comment on the complaint, to be taken up by the state Ethics Commission."
Sounds all too familiar doesn't it?
Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman and former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner. He was voted the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada in 1991. Visit his website at: http://www.SteveMiller4LasVegas.com