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October 1, 2014

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Ex-councilman Michael Mack behind pawnshop push

Against existing stores’ wishes, proposed change would pave way for more


The former councilman, a real estate agent, seeks to again run (and expand) a pawnshop business.

The former councilman, a real estate agent, seeks to again run (and expand) a pawnshop business.

A familiar and controversial name is behind Las Vegas’ proposed ordinance to increase the number of allowed pawnshops: former Councilman Michael Mack.

In an interview, Mack confirmed he’s been representing a Beverly Hills, Calif., pawn broker looking to expand to Las Vegas. The two have been working with city staff on changes to the way the city licenses pawn shops.

The proposed ordinance, still in its early stages, would change a 17-year-old law that says only one pawnshop license can be granted per population increase of 50,000.

Under the proposal, the council could grant up to four pawnshop licenses per year.

The ordinance would also create a new category of pawnbroker, one who could lend money on only 11 categories of goods, including jewelry, watches and antiques. The purpose would be to allow this limited type of pawnbroker to open in areas where larger stores aren’t allowed.

Mack said the city was already planning on increasing the number of stores, but that he and his client, Jordan Tabach-Bank, CEO of the upscale Beverly Loan Co., came up with the idea of a second pawnshop category.

“It allows jewelers to lend to their customers,” Mack said. “You could move to a nicer area and go after a different market.”

Part of his decision to assist Tabach-Bank is self-interest, he said. Mack used to own the First Class Pawn shop, which went out of business in 2001. He is about to take over an existing pawn store if he can get a pending license approved — and would like to be able to grow his business further.

Tabach-Bank’s store in Beverly Hills, which Mack calls an “upscale collateral lender,” caters to high-profile Hollywood types. He said he’s eager to gain entry into Las Vegas, but encountered the current restrictions when inquiring about placing a store in the World Jewelry Center, a development slated for Symphony Park.

The proposed ordinance has raised the ire of existing pawnbrokers, who have hired several lobbyists to try to quash the measure. They’re arguing that the existing law has worked well and that changes could lead to a city glutted with pawn shops.

But Mack, currently an agent with Prudential Real Estate, plans to lobby each council member, alongside Tabach-Bank.

Soon after his April 2001 election to the council, Mack was the subject of an ethics complaint for voting to postpone and then deny an application for a car dealership — while failing to disclose he owed $60,000 to a competing car dealer. Mack was acquitted in Las Vegas Municipal Court of four criminal charges.

Mack might have a leg up in his lobbying efforts. He and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman have been closely connected. When Goodman formed a political action committee in 2005, for example, he tapped Mack to be its executive director.

•••

It’s bad enough that a centuries-old federal law enforcement agency such as the U.S. Marshals Service has found itself in the Las Vegas strip-club business. Now it’s in the lobbying business, too.

The agency has owned the Crazy Horse Too since 2007, when it seized the property as part of a plea agreement with its former owner, tax evader Rick Rizzolo.

Ever since, the agency has been trying to get the necessary city licenses so that the strip club can be sold — and millions in debts can be paid off. According to a spokesman, the agency realized it needed legal assistance in July 2008 when it retained Chris Kaempfer and Tom Amick, top local lawyer/lobbyists.

But the agency says it didn’t retain the duo to lobby the City Council — which is precisely what they’ve been doing, according to the city’s “lobbyist registration forms” that note their recent visits to Goodman and Councilman Gary Reese.

Kaempfer and Amick were hired “for legal advice, not for lobbying activities, concerning the local zoning and licensing issues that affect the forfeited property the Crazy Horse Too,” agency spokesman Dave Turner said.

To date, the Marshals Service has paid the pair $85,851.24, Turner wrote. Then he reiterated: “The U.S. Marshals never discussed lobbying with our contractors, nor was lobbying activities part of their contract; the U.S. Marshals Service contracted only for legal services and representation.”

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