Billy Bounces Back
"The day before we were
indicted, my attorney (Goodman) tried to contact the Strike Force
...but exposes friend to new round of ethics
to say we would be willing to turn ourselves in." - Billy Walters on Oscar Goodman
"I want to take care of those who
live here." "If I have a choice, if
you know somebody
and they're honorable, and you've done business with them in the past, they get the
best of it." -
Mayor Oscar Goodman on Billy Walters - 2001
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
September 26, 2005
LAS VEGAS - Golf course developer Billy Walters is a highly respected
local businessman, political campaign contributor, golf course
developer, philanthropist, and restaurant owner. A true "Pillar of the
community." A man accustomed to getting "the best of it" from
Mayor Oscar Goodman is a man who loses
when his ethics are questioned, especially when it
comes to using his elected position to do favors for his family
members, or former criminal defense clients. William T. "Billy" Walters
is one of those clients, though Goodman does not want the public to
expresses disappointment after the Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman blasts the Nevada Ethics
a decision on whether to rescind Commission during a news
conference after his
a deed restriction to
allow him to build 1000
homes on ethics were questioned by
city land he purchased for
$5,600 acre for a golf course
(Review-Journal Photo by Cariño
(LV SUN phot by MATTHEW MINARD)
Billy Walters is a very influential man. Only a person such as Walters
could have been chosen to sign a lease with the airport in April 2001,
taking control of about 320 acres of public land at no cost
with the understanding he would build two golf courses.
A year later, with no golf courses on the drawing board, he returned to
the Clark County Commission and successfully
lobbied to rezone 40 acres of that land to commercial and
, considered a more lucrative use. The media paid little attention.
Another three years passed, and after Walters failed to build the golf courses, the
commission asked him to return the land. But without explanation, the
commission failed to ask him to return the 40 acres where he plans to
build an upscale shopping center
. Instead, the commissioners,
with the exception of one maverick
acted like he was entitled
keep the 40 taxpayer-owned acres for no
, and the news media, again, paid little attention.
"I knew all along that a golf course wouldn't be built there,"
Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates. She then dared question whether
Walters would contribute to the construction of a regional park at the
site of the 280 (out of 320) acres he reluctantly agreed to return. Her
bold question was met with deaf ears.
Few, if any, local elected officials would have questioned Billy
Walters. They know too well how "helpful" Walters can be during
elections. Just ask his former criminal defense attorney Oscar Goodman
who accepted a Walters hosted fund-raiser
in May 2003, that that was listed as an in-kind donation of $10,000.
The event, catered by Wolfgang Puck, took place at Walter's Cili
at his Bali Hai Golf Course and was attended by almost
everyone in the Sin
City Social Register
. The event helped to generate over $750,000 in
a race where Goodman was running unopposed.
In fact, with the exception of embattled strip club owner Rick Rizzolo
, a person Billy Walters is
compared to and another "Pillar of
," Walters is the most prolific political campaign
contributor and party giver in town, and according to SUN
, "has become respectable the old fashioned way: He bought
After Commissioner Gates rightfully demanded a park in return for the
40 taxpayer owned acres, land located smack in the middle of the LV
Valley, questions arose as to whether Walters will be supportive when
it comes time for her reelection bid, or instead, whether he will help
find her a well healed opponent?
As far as Sin City politics goes, she had crossed the line by bravely
doing the right thing.
public official who stood up to Walters
(Sam Morris / LAS VEGAS SUN)
In the meantime, there has been little or no local news coverage of the
taxpayer's generosity toward Billy -- possibly because Billy Walters
and Brian Greenspun are business partners.
Greenspun Media Group's (GMG) primary businesses include the weekly
newspaper and magazine publications, In Business Las Vegas, Las
Vegas Life magazine, Las Vegas Weekly, The Ralston Report, ShowBiz
Weekly, ShowBiz Japan
and VegasGolfer Magazine
. GMG also
consists of the Las Vegas SUN
daily newspaper, the website Vegas.com
and Las Vegas One
, an all-news cable channel associated with KLAS Channel 8
, and UPN News
Brian Greenspun is best known for never wearing socks,
or speaking ill of a business partner
But things have not always been so rosy for Billy. In 1990, Walters
agreed to an in depth interview with writer Ian Thomsen for the National Sports Daily
. In the story
Gang That Beat Las Vegas," Thomsen wrote:
complains about harassment by the FBI, saying it confiscated funds and
refused to transfer them to the IRS to pay his taxes.
claims he is persecuted in part because the government loathes his
attorney, Oscar Goodman, a colorful Las Vegas lawyer who has
represented many mob figures."
You’ve got to understand my position,' he (Walters)
'After the government went through all the
evidence, they decided not to prosecute us.
three years they tell us the case is dead.
of a sudden, two weeks before the statute of limitations is going to
run out, they come back with these indictments.
day before we were indicted, my attorney (Goodman) tried to contact the
Strike Force to say we would be willing to turn ourselves in.
The Strike Force wouldn't return his calls.
next day they come barging into my house, drag me out of bed, put my
wife in leg irons.
I'm telling you, you don't
believe it until you’ve gone through something like this, what the
government can do to you.'"
The obscure National Sports Daily
surfaced last week. It inspired me to do an in depth investigation
looking for additional links between the two men, and the following
information was located: During the 1980's, Goodman the lawyer was
known to take real estate and other goods in lieu of his fee. In
Walters' case, Goodman is listed in two recordings
on file with the Clark County Recorder's Office as 2nd or 3rd Party
with Walters in "Substitution/Reconveyence," and "UCC - Terminate"
documents dated 03/16/1988.
These documents, in addition to Walters' own words in the Ian Thomsen
article, ostensibly says their was once a financial link between
Walters and Goodman. A fact that if not disclosed by the mayor at
public hearings, is a violation of NRS 281.481(2): "A public officer...
shall not use his position in government to secure or grant unwarranted
privileges... for... any person he has a commitment (to) in a
I doubt that either man expected this information to turn up at a time
when a fifty-million dollar windfall hangs in the balance. A time when
Walters needs all the friends he has at city hall, especially the
mayor, to lift a deed restriction. And a time when Goodman wishes his
past relationship with Walters was not made public. So far, I'm the
only writer covering this story, and if no one takes official action,
Goodman may be able to covertly help his friend make a fortune with the
public knowing nothing of it. Another in a series of obvious paybacks
to former clients.
to becoming mayor, Goodman was also famous for requiring a half-million dollar retainer
taking on a criminal defense client. Goodman was
the defense attorney for Tony "The Ant" Spilotro whom Goodman described
as an innocent, misunderstood businessman. At the same time, Goodman said
he'd rather have his daughter date Spilotro than an FBI agent. Goodman
was also known for saying, "There is no mob," and his later
actions as mayor exemplified his belief.
Goodman represented Spilotro lieutenant Joey
Cusumano. Cusumano is listed in Nevada's Black Book of persons
excluded from entering casinos, but in 2003, was spotted at the mayor's
home attending a social gathering. Goodman was also criticized
for receiving at City Hall another Black Book member, Charles "The
Moose" Panarella, and Vincent "Vinnie Ocean" Palermo, acting boss of
the DeCavalcante crime family. Panarella has been identified as a
member of the Colombo organized crime family.
reporter who first identified Panarella visiting Goodman on the tenth
floor of city hall said that the mayor threatened him, saying that if
he continued writing about his visitors, he would be banned from the
Since his election in 1999, Goodman has been repeatedly plagued with
questions about his ethics and loyalties
when his former
appear before his council.
Walters, in 2001, came to Goodman with a proposal to operate the
Northwest Family Golf Course. The vote came after a city evaluation
panel recommended that the council choose another
company because its
proposal offered the least financial risk to the city. However, Goodman
-- without disclosing his ties to Walters -- said
he did not think both proposals were equal. Instead, Goodman said
Walters' proposal was better
he is a proven operator who is familiar with the Las Vegas community.
Goodman said he wanted a "home-grown product." "I want to take care of
those who live here," Goodman said. "If I have a choice, if you know
somebody and they're honorable
and you've done business with them in the past, they get the best of it
Meanwhile, Billy Walters, according to TravelGolf.com
., neglected his
Stallion Mountain golf course to the extent that few wanted to play
there anymore. After their articles and photos were published, he
promptly sued the magazine.
Now, the land under the shabby golf course, land once owned by the
taxpayers and bought by Walters for only $5,600 per acre in 1999, is
back before Goodman's council for rezoning to convert it into 1,000
cracker box houses. The problem? Adjacent parcels were selling for
$40,000 per acre in 1999, i.a., the taxpayers got screwed!
Walters paid the city a total of only $894,000 for the land -- a real
sweetheart of a deal. He did so with the caveat that he would charge
low green fees for locals, and accept a permanent
to limit the land's use to golf course only.
Five years later, the low green fees never happened, and the deed
restriction isn't worth the paper its written on if the city council
arbitrarily votes to lift it in the next month or two.
I predict that sometime this Fall, Goodman, if true to form,
will champion his former client's request to rezone the land -- as soon
heat is off the subject
. However, the Nevada Commission on Ethics
may soon change his plans if they find he failed to publicly disclose
his ties to Mr. Walters, a clear violation of the city and state ethics
To prevent Goodman from participating in, and possibly skewing the
democratic process, veteran ethicist Robert Rose asked me to join him
in filing a complaint
with the state Ethics Commission on Monday, September 26.
I agreed because I
can't just sit back and watch Mayor
Goodman flippantly violate a law I worked hard in 1990 to create (Steve
Miller was the author and sponsor of the City of Las Vegas Ethics in
Government Law that requires public officials to disclose possible
conflicts and obstain from discussing or voting on such items). I also
have experience filing such complaints, and I'm not
concerned if I anger people when I change hats from journalist to
citizen activist. And last, because nobody else in Sin City, with the
exception of Mr. Rose and myself, have the knowledge or guts to try to
stop these fools from enriching themselves at public expense.
Copyright © Steve Miller