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January 31, 2015

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Jon Ralston:

More to DA’s departure than meets the eye

Fraught With Conflict?

Critics say Clark County District Attorney David Roger sides with police. Now he's making it official. We'll hear from a critic who says Roger's imminent career move is fraught with conflict. Plus, how green are your state lawmakers? We'll find out when the Nevada Conservation League unveils its legislative scorecard on the environment.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger

Why is the Clark County District Attorney leaving three years early? Is it the new baby or the new job? Or both? We'll get the news from David Roger. Plus, from web poker to foreign gaming, can Nevada's gaming industry overcome the obstacles on the way to economic recovery?

Let’s stipulate: David Roger has a fine reputation as district attorney, embodied the hackneyed “straight shooter” to many and, like almost all in his job, inevitably was seen as too cozy with the police.

Thus endeth the stipulation.

What fascinates me about the story of Roger’s sudden resignation, less than a year after he was re-elected to a third term, is how little commentary there has been about the propriety of his sub rosa conversations with the police union, his departure so long before his tenure was scheduled to end and the enduring habit too many elected officials have of putting their covenant with voters below ambition, money and, yes, putative personal reasons.

Police Protective Association boss Chris Collins told me Sunday that he brought up the possibility of a job during Roger’s re-election campaign. (Roger says he is wrong, that it came up a few months ago and they had several conversations about the job.)

So after acting as the county’s top law enforcement officer, and after having served on a coroner’s inquest panel and after trying to kill the system in the 2011 Legislature, Roger is leaving now, perhaps to take a job with the police union? This doesn’t seem questionable to anyone?

It did to former ACLU lawyer Maggie McLetchie, who served with Roger on that county coroner’s inquest panel and said on “Face to Face” this week that this reinforces the perception that the district attorney goes light on officers. But she also raised the possibility that Roger potentially violated bar guidelines and ethical rules that prohibit conflicts of interest.

As McLetchie put it, Roger trying to get a job with the police union could “materially affect” his judgment on issues with officer-involved shootings. Or, as an American Bar Association guideline puts it, “A prosecutor should not, except as law may otherwise expressly permit, negotiate for private employment with any person who is involved as an accused or as an attorney or agent for an accused in a matter in which the prosecutor is participating personally and substantially … a prosecutor should not permit his or her professional judgment or obligations to be affected by his or her own political, financial, business, property, or personal interests.”

Similar Nevada rules seem to frown on prosecutors later representing those whom they may have had to prosecute — exactly the purpose for which the PPA wants to retain him.

Now that Roger has announced he will retire on Jan. 3, he essentially has a couple of months to be courted by other suitors, too — an extended audition period after he spent the past year auditioning for the PPA.

Roger’s explanation for his departure a quarter of the way into his term also raises questions. His brief missive referring to his 1-year-old daughter said he is “very cognizant of my own mortality and want to spend every minute of every day enjoying time with my family. I do not have any firm employment offers at the present time.”

So what questions linger?

1. If you knew you were having a baby during your re-election bid, why not retire then? Yes, most parents can’t anticipate all the strains of parenthood, but really? And if he wants “to spend every minute of every day enjoying time with my family,” that would seem to leave little time for any other employment, eh?

2. No “firm employment offers at the present time.” You have to be kidding. If I were a prosecutor, I could shred that carefully parsed statement in seconds. Does anyone think Roger would do this now if he didn’t have a job waiting? Of course he does — he acknowledges one from Collins — and now other offers will flow in. Clever.

I’m sure I’m in the minority on this final point, too: It simply amazes me how many elected officials run for office and commit to serve their terms — it’s implicit in their placing their name on the ballot — and then leave.

It’s one thing if something unexpected comes along — an illness in the family, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For instance, Judge Jackie Glass left early for a national TV show — does that qualify? — and now her husband, Councilman Steve Wolfson, who is up in 2013, wants Roger’s job — doubt that does.

They are but two examples, and from governors to lawmakers to local officials, it happens all the time. And yet, have you ever heard an elected official apologize for abandoning his constituents for a “better” opportunity?

Roger’s case is especially egregious, so early in his term. And although the district attorney said he thought about his commitment to voters, he also said on “Face to Face” on Tuesday that he had to think of his family.

I am sure he was referring to his wife and daughter, not the law enforcement family.

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  1. First of all..Kudos to Jon Ralston for asking the questions our elected officials have chosen not to. Second, David Rogers was always a sleaz bag and a bagman for the cops which is why so many knew they could kill and get away with it 'cause they had old Davey in their pockets.

    Finally, all parents know you need a job more than ever when you have a new baby and Rogers expects us to believe he is quitting a lucrative job to go home and watch his wife change shirty diapers? Come on, Dave, you can do better than that and since you can no longer pull the wool over our eyes,we ain't buying that one. You are leaving just ahead of something that you see coming behind you. (I hope it is an investigation and a possible indictment) Where is Steve Sisalak when you need him to be investigating dirty laundry and wrongdoing? Whatever happens, I am glad he's leaving, should have made it affective Nov. 1st because we the people certainly deserve better than this corrupt, lying, dishonest politician.

  2. nostradamus...

    Your powers are failing you.
    The only relative health issues here are financial & (potentially) legal.
    If there IS justice in this burg, the $#%&^ is about to hit the fan, and Roger is positioning himself so that the splatter pattern doesn't hit him square.

    Roger quitting & going to bat for the Police Protective Ass. is yet another indication of the relative health of our systems judicial & ethical, out here in the desert.

  3. I was in court the Day DA David Roger knowingly made false statements, to Judge Eric Goodman on the behalf of Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which closed the case against Harrah's for their highly publicized illegal remodels. When I contacted the DA's office in June of 2007 I was directed to Assistant DA Christopher Lalli, who told me after listening to my allegations that if my allegations were found to be true the DA's Office would prosecute Harrah's to the full extent of the law. Lets look at the facts: Harrah's Entertainment Inc. illegally remodeled thousands of their hotel rooms, over a period that spanned more than a decade, leaving every single room that they touched unsafe for the public to stay in. In the process of their illegal remodels they compromised every single safety system that was supposed to be in place to protect the public in the case of a fire. Essentially, Harrah's by their very own hand (they were the General Contractor) created the potential for another MGM Grand Fire Disaster at a number of their properties! Adding insult to injury Harrah's knowingly poisoned tens of thousands of people during the course of many of their, now documented, illegal remodels with ASBESTOS, a known carcinogenic...this is fact, a fact that no one wants to touch - why? DA David Roger had information at his disposal to go after Harrah's criminally, but instead of using the documentation as he should have he intentionally & willfully buried it! Why would our DA intentionally obstruct an investigation? We got our answer in the Kessler Report...enough corruption for Mr. Kessler to spend the rest of his life cleaning up. In my humble opinion, DA David Roger is part of the problem not part of the solution, and I believe he belongs behind bars for what he has done & not done during his reign as Clark County District Attorney. Just one man's opinion, calling it as I know it to be, and it can be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt!

  4. David Roger (and his predecessors) have done more to undermine confidence of the public in Clark County's "just us" system and in government in general than the people he has been prosecuting ever dreamed of doing. Roger's conduct in the Cole/Yant fiasco revealed that no Las Vegan is safe from its uniformed government apparatchiks. Any of us could literally be executed for ANY reason and Roger and his minions would see, hear, and say nothing. We literally run less risk in any but a handful of countries in the world, including those run by tyrants who don't deny being tyrants. Roger, on the other hand, presents himself as a nice guy next door, but no one is more dangerous to the personal security of any of us.

    Every statement uttered by Detective Yant (except, ironically, the "malfunction" of his flashlight in the bathroom, where he executed Cole--30 seconds after he admitted shining it through the front window) was debunked by other officers present, the government's own witnesses and the coroner. While it was, perhaps, commendable that Roger's attorneys gave Yant an "out" by declaring he had "mistakenly" fired his gun, their statement in the closing moments was clearly intended to prejudice the Jury: "If we felt that Detective Yant may have been guilty of criminal conduct, we would have already charged him". (paraphrased)

    However, the old inquest system (actually a Kangaroo Court) was so defective that even that statement by the DA probably had zero effect on its always-repeated outcome: For example, the instruction given the jury that, "if any law enforcement official 'fears for his safety', whether the fear is real or perceived" (paraphrased), guaranteed that all such juries would rule any killing as "justified"!

    That absurd system was thrown out by a "citizens' Committee, with only Roger and the PPA's Collins voting against the new system. Since then, Collins and Roger have apparently worked together to make sure that Yant and others of similar inclination are rewarded with 30 year retirement packages and collect millions of dollars from us during their lifetimes--rather than bunk with OJ Simpson, where they, too, belong. And Metro and Sheriff Gilespie wonder why they get such bad reviews, when 99% of their personnel performs admirably (and legally). Well, you all can thank David Roger for your unjustified reputation--and work to support the appointment of a new DA who will recognize murder when he or she sees it and restore our confidence in government and a real "Justice" system. This, BTW, would not be anyone already influenced or recommended by Mr. Roger.

  5. Good piece by Ralston. And he's completely correct in questioning whether Roger has a job offer. If he's so concerned about his "mortality" and wants to spend every waking moment with his family, would he really risk their security by quitting with no provision for continuing to make a living!???? Ludicrous!

  6. Somehow I was under the impression Roger's wife had a daughter from a previous marriage that lived with them. Am I wrong?

  7. I've never understood how Roger became so popular with the voters. I suppose it's name recognition, but let's examine how his name was established.

    In his highest-profile case, he prosecuted Murphy and Tabish in a trial replete with errors and gun-for-hire "experts" wildly speculating to fit the prosecution's case. It was an OD, that was correctly ruled as such, until Becky Behnen's money swayed Roger. The higher court ordered a new trial where the verdicts were reversed.

    Beside that, I found him to be a terrible trial lawyer. His dull and emotionless drone, interrupted by frequent "...Aaahs..." bore little resemblance to Clarence Darrow or Johnny Cochrane.

    So whatever the reasons, and I'm hoping there's a scandal behind it, I'm very happy to see him go.