Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2014

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Law:

Retired Las Vegas lawyer to receive $1.1 million for work on Boulder City bypass condemnation cases

The state is paying a Las Vegas lawyer $1.1 million to handle condemnation cases involving the Boulder City bypass project.

The Nevada Transportation Board agreed Monday to the contract for Laura Fitzsimmons to work through July 2015 on cases in which the state condemned property needed to complete the bypass after negotiations with owners failed. There are three condemnation cases plus another case involving the Boulder freeway.

The state Transportation Department is seeking to acquire 17.1 acres from K&L Dirt Company. It estimates the property is worth $2 million. The state is condemning 15.6 acres belonging to Railroad Pass Investment Co. for the Boulder freeway, estimated to be worth $2 million. Also being condemned is 3 acres belonging to Jericho Heights, for which the state's offer is $337,000.

These property owners say they are entitled to more money for these acquisitions, but the amount of their requests are not available.

When asked why her deputies did not do the work, Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto said, “I don’t have enough staff.”

She added that the selection has been cleared by her office.

There were no requests for proposals to allow other lawyers to compete for the job.

Dennis Gallagher, chief counsel for the state Transportation Department, said Fitzsimmons was selected because she “is the leading expert in the state” on condemnation cases. He said Fitzsimmons was in retirement but agreed to be chief counsel in the cases and also to train staff.

Gallagher said there would be a request for proposals for other lawyers to handle an increase in cases involving the state Transportation Department.

For instance, there may be as many as 40 claims against the department for a truck vs. train accident in Northern Nevada, although the federal Transportation Department said the state agency was not to blame.

The state board also voted to go ahead with a condemnation action against the city of Los Angeles for .62 acres needed for the Boulder City bypass. The state offered $271,000 for the property but never received a reply from Los Angeles. The property is a frontage road at a railroad crossing.

The board also approved a $3.4 million contract for Penna Powers Brian Haynes, a Salt Lake City advertising firm, to run the marketing campaign pushing Zero Fatalities on Nevada highways. A department spokesman said no Nevada companies submitted proposals and the Utah firm now has one person based in Las Vegas. The contract goes through 2017.

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