by By Michael J. Shapiro | February 01, 2009

Las Vegas Convention CenterThe Nevada Policy Research Institute, a privately funded think tank, this past December released the results of an eight-month investigation into the finances and operations of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The NPRI hired investigative reporter John Dougherty, of, to obtain and analyze the CVA's internal records.

The full report, available at, asserts that the records reveal patterns of "extravagant spending, lax accounting, shoddy oversight and a disturbingly cozy relationship with major contractors," and questions the efficacy of the LVCVA's annual $123 million marketing and advertising campaigns. State government ethics laws also might have been violated, the report asserts.

In addition to citing perceived excesses such as an $11,500 trip to Dubai taken by the LVCVA's director of marketing, the NPRI claims LVCVA president Rossi Ralenkotter "may have accepted hotel and airfare expenses" from a company contracted to do work on the convention center, an alleged violation of ethics laws.

The report also claims widespread billing discrepancies and a breach of contract between the LVCVA and its largest subcontractor, public relations and advertising firm R&R Partners.

In response, the LVCVA presented a 13-page rebuttal at its December board meeting. "The items mentioned in this report were first identified in a self-audit, and appropriate measures have been taken to rectify them," said Keith Smith, vice chairman of the LVCVA board of directors, in a statement obtained from the authority. Smith, who also serves as president and CEO of Boyd Gaming, added, "There is a vast difference between human error and a systematic pattern; as we have determined, no such pattern exists here."

Numerous allegations were refuted in the rebuttal; e.g., with respect to the Dubai trip, the LVCVA claims the NPRI neglected to convert expenses from U.A.E. to U.S. currency.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, chairman of the LVCVA board of directors, claimed the NPRI report was politically motivated. "Please consider the source of these attacks," he said in a statement. "It comes from a group of individuals with a political agenda." 

Among the NPRI's board of directors is Las Vegas Sands president and CEO William Weidner, whose company sued the LVCVA in the 1990s for using public funds to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center.