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September 30, 2014

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Hotel bailout case goes before Ethics Commission

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Duncan McCoy

Boulder Dam Hotel

The Treasured Times Tearoom is one of the rooms refurbished in the Boulder Dam Hotel under the supervision of manager Roger Shoaff. The tearoom, one of the amenities and sources of revenue at the hotel, offers tea by reservation only. Launch slideshow »

Boulder Dam Hotel

The state Ethics Commission will weigh in on a controversial decision City Attorney Dave Olsen made in July that affected a proposed city bailout of the Boulder Dam Hotel.

City Councilman Duncan McCoy asked the Ethics Commission for a formal opinion after he abstained from the bailout vote July 6 on Olsen’s advice.

The proposal failed on a 2-2 vote, and the hotel closed five days later. It reopened July 22 after an anonymous donor gave $260,000.

The nonprofit Boulder City Museum and Historical Association had sought $135,000 in Redevelopment Agency money to keep the hotel, restaurant and museum housed inside afloat through the fall. Because of falling occupancy rates, the operation had fallen behind three months on mortgages of $940,000 and owed vendors and utility bills. It had just enough to pay employees a final paycheck.

Olsen advised McCoy to abstain after McCoy disclosed that he was a past board member of the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association and had recently given $1,000 to the group during a fundraising appeal to save the hotel. The City Council also serves as the RDA board. McCoy said after the meeting that he supported the bailout.

A consortium that included the nonprofit museum association purchased and renovated the hotel to house the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum. The museum association took full ownership in 2005.

McCoy said he and Olsen asked for the opinion a week after the RDA vote. Ethics Commission staff members would not confirm nor deny the request, following a policy that keeps all complaints and requests confidential until a ruling is made.

“I’m not going to argue with the city attorney in a public meeting about an opinion I disagree with,” McCoy said. “The way to do it is to respect the opinion and ask for a ruling.”

A hearing was originally scheduled for Aug. 13, but Ethics Commission staff asked to postpone it because of a busy calendar, McCoy said. Because the hotel was no longer closed, McCoy agreed, he said.

A new hearing has been set for Sept. 10, he said. The hearing will remain confidential, though McCoy may ask that the results and transcripts of the hearing be released, he said.

McCoy said his research showed that the commission has not issued an opinion in a case like his before.

“What you have to do right now to get guidance from past cases is to extrapolate the opinion into different situations,” he said.

“I’m sure my situation has occurred, but I don’t know if it’s gone to the Ethics Commission. But I’m sure it’s occurred in other places at other times.

“I don’t think many people get elected to public office in Nevada without being active in their communities.”

McCoy won’t ask for a new vote on the issue, even if the Ethics Commission backs him, he said.

“But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen,” he said.

Jean Reid Norman can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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