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San Diego Source - The Daily Transcript
March 13, 2008

Audit finds problems in Clark County building, fire inspections

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- An audit commissioned amid complaints about lax Clark County building and fire inspections faults officials for falsifying reports, keeping inadequate records and favoring commercial property owners.

Building and fire inspectors have been "derelict" in their duty to keep commercial buildings safe, New York-based consultant Michael Kessler concluded, adding a recommendation that his report go to police and prosecutors.

Kessler described the way homeowners were treated as "a vast injustice" compared with treatment of owners of multifamily housing or commercial properties, and reported that he was told that inspectors received "meals, show tickets, stays at other properties and branded clothing" from hotels.

County Manager Virginia Valentine said action will be taken against employees identified in the report, but called it premature to say whether firings would result.

"These are going to result in personnel actions," she said.

Valentine said the report was shared Wednesday with Las Vegas police, the Clark County district attorney's office, the Nevada attorney general and the U.S. attorney's office.

The county on Wednesday also unveiled proposals to revamp building and fire inspections, which officials said will be submitted to county commissioners next week.

The 97-page report by Kessler International accuses the inspectors of charging penalties and investigative fees to homeowners for violations, while letting commercial owners avoid fees.

It also cites "general lack of concern and sense of urgency regarding complaints," and calls for "significant change" to current practices.

Ron Lynn, chief county building official and development director, said the failings highlighted in the report "need to be disclosed and addressed."

Kessler was hired in November, after the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that rooms had been renovated without proper permits or inspections at the Rio hotel-casino and Harrah's Las Vegas resort.

Harrah's officials declined comment on the Kessler report.

Kessler said an analysis of complaints lodged during three months in 2006 found some were not logged appropriately, statements by complainants were not always recorded accurately, "resolutions were falsified," and several case assignments and inspections were dated before complaints were received.

"Proper and complete documentation" was not always kept, the consultant added, meaning that information essential for determining liability about safety questions was missing.

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