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Joan Whitely

Harrah's named in contractors board complaints

25 October 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Clark County names Harrah's Entertainment as the contractor in three of its complaints recently filed with the Nevada State Contractors Board for failing to follow state law. Ford Contracting, a local company, is named in the county's fourth complaint.

That complaint ascribes to Ford a role in remodeling guest rooms at one hotel, Harrah's Las Vegas.

"The complaints name Harrah's Entertainment as the contractor that allegedly performed construction work without permits, as required by state law, at the Rio Hotel, Harrah's Las Vegas Hotel, and a warehouse building owned by Harrah's, located at 3665 W. Twain Ave.," according to a statement issued Wednesday for Clark County by Erik Pappa, the county's director of public communications. Those three sites account for three of the complaints filed.

Harrah's Entertainment declined to comment on the complaints until management has had time to review them. 'We just received them," said spokeswoman Marybel Batjer on Wednesday afternoon. She is vice president of public policy and communications for the company, which is the largest gaming enterprise in the world.

The complaint copies sent by the county to the Review-Journal are dated Oct. 11. The contractors board itself is not permitted by state law to confirm that the complaints exist.

"I've looked at the complaint," said lawyer John Moran Jr., who represents Tom Ford of Ford Contracting.

"And the county does not have standing, OK, under the law of the state of Nevada to file a complaint like that."

Property owners ordinarily file complaints with the board, while the county does not own any of the locations involved in the complaints.

"Development Services (a county department that houses the building division) filed the complaints with the Nevada State Contractors Board because the board has jurisdiction over contractors, and is the appropriate agency to investigate whether contractors should be subject to disciplinary action," the county statement reads.

Moran declined to make his client available to the newspaper. "There's not any interview going to happen," he said by telephone Wednesday.

According to the Nevada Secretary of State Web site, Ford Contracting was formed in 1977, and Tommy A. Ford is its president. It has held a county contractor's license since 1977, according to the county's Web site.

Batjer has verified that Ford Contracting has done work for Harrah's over the years, but said her company cannot yet pinpoint any role by Ford in controversial remodel projects that took place at Harrah's Las Vegas on the Strip, or the Rio Hotel on Flamingo Road. Both hotels belong to Harrah's Entertainment.

"We have people going through the files. They're looking at all contracts. It's a rather laborious effort to make sure when a contract was let, for what work, for what period of time, by whom," she noted. "We're trying to arrive at a thorough answer for you."

The specific dates that remodeling work was done at the two hotels have not yet been officially established, but six workers told the newspaper they helped carry out the work at the Rio from late 2004 through early 2006, and at Harrah's, in 2006.

Both hotels have numerous guest rooms currently closed, as four investigation teams -- from the county building division, county fire department, Harrah's and an independent law firm hired by Harrah's -- comb through the properties to detect work that either is below standards set by various safety codes, or is undocumented because it was carried out without building permits or safety inspections. Harrah's has repeatedly stated its eagerness to cooperate with authorities.

The Twain address cited in one of the county's complaints to the contractors board refers to a building occupied by Roman Empire Development, a Las Vegas-based subsidiary of Harrah's that was formed in December 2006. Some people who were formerly employed directly by Harrah's properties, to supervise or carry out construction projects, now work for Roman Empire, according to remodel workers interviewed.

Harrah's named in contractors board complaints is republished from