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Joan Whitely

Harrah's audit finds 34 projects

11 April 2008

NEVADA -- Harrah's Entertainment looked within its ledgers for evidence of remodeling projects that have taken place at its local hotels without the safety net created by pulling permits and passing inspections and found 34 projects at eight hotels in Clark County since 2000.

The gaming company gave a copy of its internal audit to officials in the Clark County Development Services Department in March but declined Thursday to share the document with the Review-Journal.

The audit compared a tally of construction permits pulled in the past eight years with a tally of capital expenditures for remodeling in the same period, according to a March 21 letter written by Greg Franklin, assistant director of Development Services.

The eight hotels involved are the same ones that fire and building inspectors examined on March 21 and March 26.

In Franklin's March 21 letter, the county relayed information on the 34 projects that lacked permits to the Nevada State Contractors Board.

Accompanying the letter was a copy of Harrah's audit document, which lists the eight hotels, the scope of each project and the contractors involved on each. But as of Thursday, the county had not determined whether it would release the Harrah's audit to the newspaper.

Meanwhile, George Lyford, director of investigations for the contractors board, replied to the county in a March 31 letter that half of the 34 projects fall outside the four-year time frame for which the board can take disciplinary action.

Also, Harrah's leadership has said, some of the 34 projects took place under previous owners before the gaming giant acquired the properties.

"Board counsel recommends no action should be taken on those incidents which occurred prior to 2004, unless additional information is provided," Lyford wrote, referring to the possibility of new information that "brings the act or omission within the 4 year statute of limitations."

The state board regulates the licensing of contractors and has the power to penalize contractors for wrongdoing in various ways, including charging them fines and canceling their licenses.

"Prosecution of unlicensed contracting cases is pursued through the court system," according to a description posted on the Nevada State Contractors Board's Web site.

The Review-Journal also requested on Thursday a copy of the audit from Marybel Batjer, a Harrah's Entertainment spokeswoman.

She declined to comment Thursday on audit specifics. But when county inspectors did a sweep of the eight hotels for undocumented remodeling in late March, Batjer said the remodeling projects under scrutiny were "very dated and minor in nature, both in terms of ... cost and what was done."

The county released copies of the March 21 and March 31 correspondence between the county and contractors board when the newspaper asked for them as well as a batch of 68 violation notices dated March 21 for remodeling without permits at Bally's, Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon, Caesars Palace, the Flamingo Las Vegas, Harrah's Las Vegas, Imperial Palace, Paris Las Vegas and the Rio.

Harrah's audit finds 34 projects is republished from