Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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Sun editorial:

Gaining public’s trust

County must add teeth to lobbyists’ disclosure forms by penalizing noncompliance

An important lesson should have been learned when four former Clark County commissioners were sent to prison in a bribery scandal tied to a former topless club owner who also landed behind bars. The businessman, Michael Galardi, employed former Commissioner Lance Malone as a bagman to financially induce Erin Kenny, Dario Herrera and Mary Kincaid-Chauncey to vote to support Galardi’s interests.

The scandal left county government with a deep wound that may take years to heal. To regain the public’s trust, the county should have demanded more openness when it comes to dealings between a commissioner and a lobbyist.

The county has a disclosure policy, ironically advocated by Herrera in 2002, to let the public know the lobbyists commissioners meet with, the clients represented and the topics discussed.

Yet on more than 170 occasions this year the policy was brazenly ignored and the appropriate forms weren’t filed, Tony Cook and Michael Mishak reported Sunday in the Las Vegas Sun. The problem is there is no impetus to file the forms because there is no penalty for noncompliance. That must change.

The county should add teeth to the disclosure requirement by instituting fines and any other penalties necessary to get the lobbyists’ attention. The lobbyists, no doubt, will comply because an enforced penalty would be a black mark on their resume and might embarrass their clients. The media, no doubt, would also be more than willing to publish the names of lobbyists who do not comply.

If the county does not beef up its disclosure policy, it will have learned nothing from the Galardi affair. The last thing Clark County needs is to help promote more corruption by turning its back on open government. We don’t want Clark County to turn into Cook County Jr.

It is not too late to make amends. Commissioners can go a long way toward regaining the public’s trust if they do the right thing. Strong disclosure enforcement is a great place to start.

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