The Bear Growls: Harrah’s apparently put patrons’ lives at risk to save a few dollars

Ipanema Tower, Rio Las Vegas

The latest incident involving shameful corporate behavior by Harrah’s is mind-boggling. Though the story is still unfolding, what is known so far is reprehensible. When Harrah’s remodeled some floors of the Rio, it managed to avoid county building and safety inspections. According to news reports, apparently Harrah’s personnel or contractors blatantly lied to the county about the scope of the remodeling, or the county inspectors were so incredibly inept they failed to see an entire floor being gutted.

After a whistle-blower exposed the wrongdoing, it appears that Clark County tried to cover it up. It is not yet known whether this was an internal coverup of its own incompetence by the county, or whether Harrah’s is involved in the coverup. It appears that a combination of both is most likely.

As of this writing, the County has revoked the occupancy certificate for two floors of the Ipanema Tower at Rio and ordered the evacuation of guests from the possibly unsafe rooms. The investigation continues, but so far no outside agency has become involved. Surely, an apparent crime of this magnitude is a matter for police and/or the District Attorney. But oddly, Rick Maddox, the county employee in charge of the investigation, is the very person who is either so incompetent he didn’t notice the obvious, or was previously hoodwinked by Harrah’s, or had some other reason to not do his job properly. Obviously Mr. Maddox has a conflict of interest “investigating” his own misbehavior and/or incompetence.

It’s too early to predict what will happen. If the allegations against Harrah’s are true, someone should go to prison. The culprits are probably some Harrah’s executives, as well as corrupt county officials who willfully participated in allowing the remodeling to go forward without proper permits and safety inspections. Was it done just to save Harrah’s a few bucks on inspection and permit fees? Was it done to slip through shoddy and unsafe workmanship, putting guests at risk? Were county officials paid off to look the other way? Unfortunately, I suspect we will never learn the truth. While our corrupt, grandstanding District Attorney David Roger is personally prosecuting O.J. Simpson for the type of crime casino guards routinely commit but never get prosecuted for, the Harrah’s crimes will be swept under the rug, and it’ll be business as usual. Shame on Harrah’s, and shame on Clark County.


Harrah’s: Tower open, safe — Officials investigate remodeling

EDITORIAL: Just a little ‘cosmetic work’ — What was county doing when it came to Rio inspections?

OCCUPANCY REVOKED: Two Rio floors closed

Added October 9, 2007:

Harrah's Las Vegas

The scandal worsens — another local Harrah’s property was improperly remodeled

As a safety precaution, Harrah’s Las Vegas early Monday evening closed about 600 of its hotel rooms, relocating affected guests to comparable lodgings at sister properties nearby.

Jan Jones, an executive at Harrah’s Entertainment, said the company voluntarily took the step because an ongoing internal investigation had revealed that several larger remodeling projects at Harrah’s on the Strip took place without the necessary permits.

Voluntarily”? What a joke. They did it because they got caught, plain and simple. There is no reasonable possibility that Harrah’s management didn’t know this work was done without the proper inspections and permits. There is no reasonable possibility that the county didn’t know this work was done without the proper inspections and permits. Because of the good work done by the newspaper in exposing the wrongdoing, despite Harrah’s and the county’s best efforts to cover it up, now the finger-pointing will begin.

“We value the trust that our guests and communities have placed in us, and the only way we can maintain that trust is to be completely open about the results of the investigation,” Jones said in a statement.

600 rooms at Harrah’s closed

Does anyone “place trust” in Harrah’s? If so, I have some fine swamp land for sale. I deeply hope that one day soon Harrah’s is destroyed by an Enron-like scandal, and the slimeballs that run this horrible company are exposed for what they are.

It’s interesting to note that another former public employee has crossed the line and accepted employment at Harrah’s, joining former Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones as a publicity and “government relations” hack. Marybel Batjer was a respected public servant with responsible government positions before she apparently checked her morals and ethics at the door and entered Harrah’s. Shame on Marybel Batjer.

Added October 10:

Already the politicians are ducking for cover and the Harrah’s mouthpiece is changing which foot is in her mouth:

Former Las Vegas Mayor and current Harrah's mouthpiece, er, executive Jan Jones

In an interview Tuesday, Jones emphasized that the company has identified problems at only two of its Las Vegas properties and expects to find nothing more.

“We believe, and our investigation has found, these incidents appear to be isolated to the two floors at the Rio and the 500-plus rooms at Harrah’s Las Vegas,” she said. “We are fairly confident we have identified the rooms, and they are isolated to the Rio and Harrah’s.”

“Fairly confident”? I think she means they are “fairly confident” that nothing else will be uncovered during the present “investigation” headed by the same buffoon who let it happen in the first place, then apparently lied about it in official reports.

“Gary Loveman takes very, very seriously his role in being the leader of integrity for Harrah’s Entertainment,” Jones said.

The sleaziest reptile in the entire casino industry is a “leader of integrity”? Pardon me while I throw up.

The state attorney general’s office says it’s up to local authorities to investigate potential criminal aspects to the remodeling problems. …

But two Clark County agencies say it’s not their job to investigate, either.”Our office is not staffed to investigate criminal matters. Rather, we receive requests for prosecution from local law enforcement once they have completed their investigations,” said Christopher Lalli, head of the criminal division of the Clark County district attorney …

But the hands of Las Vegas police are also tied, according to police spokesman Jose Montoya. “I’m not sure that we would get involved. It’s not a criminal act. It’s more a civil act,” Montoya told the newspaper last week. He did not change his response when asked whether remodel managers for Harrah’s Entertainment should have known to seek permits, and might have covered up faulty work. …

The county investigation of the Rio led to closure of two floors for remodeling that bypassed county safety procedures. One county official says the Rio failed to adequately protect holes between floors so smoke won’t spread during a fire. …

Official rebuts criticism of review of work at Rio, Harrah’s Las Vegas

“It’s not our job.” Sickening, corrupt, cowardly public officials.


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