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George Knapp: Finn, cabbies and other updates

George Knapp
George Knapp

Fired Boulder City police chief Tom Finn hasn’t had much to laugh about in recent months. He’s been embroiled in a nasty slugfest with government officials in his hometown, has taken some punches to the gut in assorted legal tussles and has been battered like a piñata in some media accounts. After he was finally canned by BC honchos several days ago, Finn and his wife got out of Dodge for a few days, just so they did not have to think about Boulder City politics, at least for awhile.

Finn returned to Southern Nevada just in time to get the news that District Attorney Steve Wolfson advised the attorney general’s office that there is no criminal case to be made regarding Finn’s order last summer to delete certain e-mails from city computers. Alert readers might recall the prediction in this space a few weeks ago that those charges would be tossed, and now that prediction has been confirmed. (We will dispense with any gloating.)

“I’ve said all along that I did nothing wrong and that I did my job, which was to keep the city safe,” Finn told me after I informed him of the news. “I knew in my heart and mind that I did not break any laws.”

It might seem like the deletion of an e-mail would never rise to the level of a criminal complaint to begin with, especially since nothing is ever truly deleted from a computer (which is one of the arguments Finn made to investigators from the AG’s office). When the AG asked for copies of the deleted e-mails, it was pretty easy for BC officials to dig them up. Wolfson said that in light of the circumstances, there is no proof that Finn willfully violated any laws about public records. I was pretty sure the AG’s office had already reached the same conclusion.

The e-mails in question regarded preparations made last June by BC police and other agencies for the arrival of the Mongols Motorcycle Club. Finn says he didn’t want the Mongols to somehow get advance notice of what police had in mind, security-wise, for the biker gathering. Attorney Stephen Stubbs, who represents the Mongols, was the first person to press the issue, accusing the chief of violating public records laws, in part because Stubbs thinks Finn’s plans for the Mongols were way over the top and that Finn wanted to hide evidence of his heavy-handed tactics.

Stubbs is not pleased about Wolfson’s call. He says the fact that the e-mails could be retrieved from city computers does not excuse Finn’s apparent desire to “conceal” the records from the public, which is just as illegal as destroying them outright. Stubbs lost this round, but has been on a winning streak in other legal venues. He got a judge to toss out Finn’s lawsuit against Stubbs and assorted BC public employees, and has filed his own countersuit. He also got a judge to award him attorney’s fees and garnished Finn’s paycheck.

Finn sees this as a major shift in momentum. And he hopes it’s now his turn to dish out some pain. As noted here in recent weeks, he has filed a series of blistering ethics complaints against his former bosses. I have the feeling that Finn’s assorted assaults on his former employers will be bolstered in the future by statements from other BC insiders, including government officials, people who likewise have paid a heavy price for bucking the power structure of that deceptively tough little burg.

One of those former officials told me that my characterization of the power structure as being the product of a so-called Mormon Mafia is not exactly correct. The town is run by — and has always been run by — a select group of longtime residents, many of whom are from prominent LDS families, but others of whom are aligned with the LDS elite for the purpose of keeping things just as they are — and to make sure the right people continue to call the shots. Now that I think about it, I’d say this assessment is closer to the mark.

Finn still has a long way to go on several legal fronts and is out of a job for the first time in his life, but he has certainly been buoyed by the news.

MORE UPDATES

Taxi Wars: So what’s this I hear about some shady practice known as long-hauling? After writing for years about how often local cab drivers rip off customers by taking them the long way, especially on trips from the airport, it is nice to see the subject get some attention from state officials and my media colleagues.

An audit by the state found that long-hauling is, in fact, a common practice, that it steals millions of dollars a year out of the pockets of our visitors, and that while the Taxi Authority has improved its enforcement, there is still a long way to go. (Why does all of this sound so familiar?)

To say the state’s assessment is “conservative” is an understatement. The auditors did not include overcharges amounting to less than $5 per trip, and they estimate that around 22 percent of trips from the airport are long hauls. Having participated in four cab counts in recent years, I can tell you that in any given hour, between 30-60 percent of the cabs out of McCarran take the long way, and that very few drivers discuss it with their passengers beforehand. The taxi companies are well aware of the extent of the practice and, their crocodile tears to the contrary, they largely let it go because it puts money into their pockets, as well. Drivers who refuse to long-haul face a good chance of being fired or otherwise hassled.

It comes as no surprise that Bill Shranko of Yellow Checker Star cabs would criticize the study. In the past, Shranko tried to minimize long-hauling allegations by arguing how they were an unfair slam against the integrity of drivers, many of whom are recent immigrants. In light of the fact that Shranko’s drivers are now on strike against his company for a long list of alleged egregious treatment, I don’t think he has much claim to the high ground anymore. Many of his drivers will be among the pickets at a protest planned outside the state Legislature, and they will give lawmakers their opinions as to who the real architects of long-hauling practices are.

Resveratrol: Remember a column earlier this year about a Las Vegas company that is marketing something called Longevinex? It’s a compound of natural ingredients including resveratrol, a natural cure that has shown amazing promise in scientific studies. I continue to receive amazing testimonials from locals who have tried the stuff, a few of whom told me their vision has been restored since taking Longevinex capsules.

Bill Sardi, the health journalist and businessman behind Longevinex, has generated impressive audience responses in recent radio interviews in which he answers pretty much any question from listeners about natural supplements they can take instead of prescription medications. Sardi’s depth of knowledge must have impressed a few other people — starting this week, he will host his own daily radio show, airing from 10-11 a.m., on KLAS 1230 AM. If the program is as much a hit with listeners as his other radio appearances have been, Sardi hopes to take the program to a national stage.

One other update: Our recent column about local aerospace pioneer Robert Bigelow and a stunning deal he has reached with NASA to help explore and settle outer space, largely by private enterprise, generated some scoffing among national aerospace media, a few of whom snickered that a story that important could not possibly break in something called Las Vegas CityLife, and would have been reported by them first if it were true. Well, the story is true, and finally, some of the national aerospace reporters have managed to find their own copy of the agreement reached between NASA and Bigelow and have sheepishly put it online. NASA has not yet made a formal announcement, but it is coming soon. My guess is the first week in May.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at gknapp@klastv.com.