The Return of the "Good Ol' Boys Land Deal"

Parcel Map showing property sold to city by present and former LV politicians

Las Vegas Tribune
October 9, 2002

LAS VEGAS - On May 31, 1996, Mayor Jan Jones and the Las Vegas City Council purchased 156 acres of prime west Las Vegas land from a former Mayor, a group of politically connected businessmen, and several present and former public officials. The taxable value of the land was listed at $5.6 million at the time of the sale though the actual price the taxpayers paid is unknown. It is now being considered for a regional park.

The listed sellers of the property known as "Western Properties Associates 1" were former Mayor Ron Lurie; Piero's Restaurant owner Freddie Glusman; Dr. Edward Hoffman; former UMC Executive Director Ernest Libman; former City Councilman Al Levy; attorney John T. Moran, Jr.; attorney Jerome Snyder; Clark County Public Administrator Jared Shaffer. Basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and former City Manager Ashley Hall have also been listed as partners in Western Properties land.

Its been over twelve years since the public first learned of the real estate partnership that was originally put together in the1980s by former City Councilman Levy, a real estate broker. The land purchased through Levy's realty company consisted of undeveloped parcels on the corner of Durango and West Washington Ave. It is not yet known how much the partnership originally paid for the vacant land.

As Las Vegas Mayor from 1987 through 1991, Lurie on several occasions voted for higher density zoning on the land. At the same time, City Manager Hall often recommended passage of the zoning, something that would enhance their property's value, but neither had ever revealed to the public that they were partners in the property.

In 1990, former City Councilman Steve Miller disclosed the until-then secret land holding. The revelation cost the Mayor and City Manager their jobs based on their failure to publicly disclose their partnership. Later that year, Miller received the "Most Effective Public Official in Southern Nevada" award from the readers of the Review Journal for his efforts in exposing the deal.

Following the disclosure, the Nevada Ethics Commission found Mayor Lurie guilty of six ethics violations, and Hall was dispelled from the American City and County Manager's Association. Lurie did not seek a second term, and Hall resigned as City Manager.

Miller used the issue to run for mayor, but the animosity created by his revealing the land deal created a firestorm of opposition among Lurie and his partner's friends including most of the city's movers and shakers. He lost the election to Jan Jones who during her two terms as mayor chose not to disclose the original names of the sellers of the future park site.

Observers now are wondering why such a well-known and controversial parcel of land could be sold to the taxpayers for millions without the public being notified of the sellerís identity?

In 2002, attorney John T. Moran, Jr., and his son, also an attorney, make regular appearances before the City Council to represent clients. In July, the Council named Freddie Glusman Citizen of the Month. Ron Lurie is an executive with Arizona Charlies. Ashley Hall is a real estate developer. Jared Shaffer is retiring from public office in January. Jan Jones is an executive with Harrah's. Al Levy is deceased.

At press time, the Las Vegas Tribune had requested but not received reports of comparable 1996 real estate sales that took place in the area near Western Properties Associates 1. Real estate experts are standing by to evaluate the "comps" to determine if the taxpayers got a good deal, or was the deal in favor of the sellers?

The Tribune will follow up on this story in coming weeks as more information is obtained.

©1997-2002 Las Vegas Tribune