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October 25, 2014

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Nevada’s top court mulls criminal charges against former UMC boss

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Lacy Thomas, former CEO of University Medical Center, watches the jury enter the courtroom at the beginning of his trial on charges of theft and misconduct Tuesday, March 23, at the Regional Justice Center.

The Nevada Supreme Court posed a number of questions Monday to both prosecution and defense lawyers on an appeal to reinstate criminal charges against Lacy Thomas, former University Medical Center chief.

But the justices gave no indication which way they were leaning on the June 2011 ruling by Clark County District Judge Michael Villani, who dismissed 10 felony counts that accused Thomas of funneling millions of dollars in contracts to his friends and former fraternity brothers in Chicago before he was fired.

Thomas sat through the hour of arguments but declined comment later.

Justice Nancy Saitta said the offenses do not seem to be clear in the charging document. Justice Ron Parraguirre said one contractor was paid and never delivered the required report. "Why is that not a crime?" he asked.

Defense attorney Franny Forsman replied there is no allegation that the work wasn't done.

Justice James Hardesty said the law makes it misconduct for a public official to benefit himself or another.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Staudaher argued these contracts were to profit his friends in Chicago and not for the benefit of the hospital.

Judge Villani dismissed the charges on grounds they were "constitutionally vague."

Forsman argued the contracts were approved by legal staff and by at least one county commissioner. Staudaher said the officials didn't know the contracts were sweetheart deals going to his friends.

Forsman said, "This isn't a crime," and argued there were no allegations of kickbacks. She said Thomas got "great evaluations" for two years before he was fired.

Staudaher said the contracts were used to benefit another and in one contract the work was already being done by hospital officials. In another, no work was performed.

Thomas is alleged to have awarded one $50,400 contract to Greg Boone and signed another for Boone for $287,700. He also awarded a $900,000 contract to Boone's Frasier Systems Group.

Thomas awarded a $24,400 contract to Crystal Communications owned by his close friend Thomas O. Jones and gave a $145,550 contract to Crystal. There were other contracts that the district attorney's office questioned.

Forsman argued that Thomas could not be convicted of a crime "because there was no crime." But Staudaher said these contracts were not to benefit the hospital but to push up the profits of his friends.

The court took the arguments under submission and will rule later.

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  1. This is a clear explanation why Nevada NEEDS APPOINTED JUDGES, not elected judges with limited reasoning ability.