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Chris Jones

Convention Authority Board OKs Raise, Bonus

14 September 2005

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved a 5 percent raise and $40,000 bonus for its president Tuesday and gave clearer direction to changes planned for the authority and the 2 million-square-foot convention center it oversees.

Dogged throughout the summer by an ethics scandal sparked by November's $1 sale of two marketing slogans, the 14-member convention authority board took another step toward revising its policies on intellectual property and several other management issues.

Separately, a consultant said current and potential users of the Las Vegas Convention Center believe its planned $400 million renovation should first include a police substation, more general session space, an expanded lobby and several user-friendly changes to the 4-year-old South Hall.

Board member and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is chairman of a four-man special committee tasked with revising several board policies in the wake of the slogan scandal.

Problems resulted when authority President Rossi Ralenkotter quietly sold the trademark for "What happens here, stays here" and another marketing slogan to R&R Partners, the Las Vegas-based advertising agency that created both phrases to help market the city's leisure and business travel industries.

Both sides insist the deal was made to bolster their shared legal interests in a continuing trademark infringement case against a California businesswoman.

The San Francisco office of the law firm Morrison & Foerster recently investigated and found no evidence of deliberate wrongdoing. But Goodman on Tuesday outlined several changes Morrison & Foerster recommended to prevent similar problems from recurring.

They included ensuring that the authority maintains ownership of its intellectual property rights, and requiring that the president have prior board approval before any such sales occur.

Morrison & Foerster also suggested future lawsuits to protect trademarks not occur without full board approval, unless speedy action by the president was required to protect the authority's interests.

"Litigation, we have found, is very expensive," said Goodman, who referred to Morrison & Foerster's sizable bill for its first month's work.

Board members largely agreed with the suggested changes, though some items will be revisited when the committee reconvenes in early October. The final revised board policies are scheduled for approval at the Oct. 11 board meeting.

There was much less discussion related to the planned renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Michael Musgrave is a consultant with the Las Vegas office of MWH Global, which was hired in June to form a program management team along with authority staff members and HNTB Architecture.

The team in August conducted six Las Vegas focus groups, as well as two more in Chicago and Washington, D.C. The results of those meetings were presented Tuesday, including trade show attendees' collective desire for increased security and other cosmetic and logistical upgrades to the 46-year-old Las Vegas Convention Center.

Board member Chuck Bowling urged Musgrave to consider the desires of existing convention center users and to address those of groups that have done business elsewhere.

"If we can grow the market ... and get new customers coming in, all of us on this board would feel better" about the costly changes proposed for the center, Bowling said.

The project management team will return in December with a detailed outline of which projects should be built first, and how much each phase would likely cost. Construction will not begin until second quarter 2006, at the earliest.

The authorityhoweveralso took some action in preparation for the projectapproving a separate request to spend $10.15 million to buy a 2.13-acre parcel at 750 Sierra Vista Drive, which is adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center's South Hall. The land's current owner, Bingo Apartments, pledged to remove an undisclosed number of residents from the site, which could become home to a police substation or parking garage.

Ralenkotter will earn $276,250 in the fiscal year ending June 30, plus a $9,000 auto allowance given annually to the authority's president and chief executive officer. The pay increase was recommended Aug. 31 by the authority's three-man compensation committee.