I don’t know why, but sometimes I go against my feelings and sometimes I follow them to the “t” for a long time and I know that is wrong, but I don’t know how to let old incidents go.
Back in the sixties, I met a lieutenant with the old police department before it merged with the sheriff’s office back in 1973; he was the head of the vice and narcotics unit. His name was John Sleeper.
I met Lieutenant Sleeper after I wrote an article in the old La Verdad Spanish Newspaper defending two police detectives that I should not have defended, but at the time I did not know that one of those detectives, by the name of Max Huggins Sr., was really a criminal; an unethical, abusive and corrupt piece of garbage.
Anyway, Lieutenant Sleeper made an arrest in a house that was selling drugs to students of our local schools. The house was as protected as my own is; gates and iron bars all over the house and Sleeper and his guys went in on a flower delivery truck full of cops and arrested the two sisters that were related to a powerful political figure.
The two ladies made statements to the media that they did not understand how they were arrested after all the money they had donated to the sheriff’s campaign. Days later Lieutenant Sleeper was transferred from head of vice and narcotics to a graveyard shift behind a desk for making an arrest outside the city police jurisdiction.
I wrote an editorial stating that if anyone does something for the safety and protection of our children, it should not make any difference if they wear a blue uniform (police) or brown uniform (sheriff) and the jurisdiction of those protecting our community should not be an issue or a matter of concern to anyone.
Lieutenant Sleeper ran for Sheriff against Ralph Lamb and I went on to help Sleeper in his campaign to become the next sheriff of Clark County, but he lost.
A few years later when another head of the vice and narcotics unit, a five-year veteran from the old Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department by the name of John McCarthy, ran for sheriff against Ralph Lamb, I supported him and we endorsed his candidature for sheriff.
McCarthy, to everybody’s surprise, won the election and became the worst one-term sheriff of all time.
I built some kind of relationship with the new sheriff; he used to visit my home and I was always welcome at the METRO city hall headquarters… until I disagreed with him on two issues.
That is the problem that we have with many of the sheriffs elected in our community; the people around the elected official right away try to seclude the new sheriff and create another dictator. On most
occasions, it is not the sheriff — or any public official for that matter — but the people that surround the elected official.
That was one thing that Ralph Lamb had in his favor — he probably was the most accessible sheriff that Clark County ever had.
If anyone wanted to talk to the sheriff all they had to do was be at the sheriff’s office at five in the morning (like all cowboys, Ralph Lamb was an early riser) and most likely he would have made time to
hear what you wanted or had to say.
Anyone who was not able to get up that early in the morning would have another chance later in the day, by stopping at the old Thunderbird Hotel and chances were they would find the sheriff at the oyster bar
Things about Ralph Lamb that came naturally to him were that as sheriff, he would never waste your time or lie to you. Once I approached Sheriff Lamb on behalf of someone I knew that was in a little bit of trouble and the sheriff straightforwardly told me, “Rolando, ask me anything but that; there is nothing I can or will do about that case.” I thanked him and left feeling as much respect and admiration for him as I felt for his brother, Senator Floyd Lamb.
McCarthy allowed a child molester to leave his jurisdiction and go back to his country of origin before appearing in court, with the help of a secretary with then-District Attorney Rex Bell.
The other issue that ended my friendship with Sheriff John McCarthy was the cold shoulder treatment he gave to Undersheriff John Moran when he was forced to re-incorporate him after he fired him.
I met Moran when he was the Las Vegas Police Chief and I tried to fistfight him, but that is a story for another day that I promise to tell my readers because Sheriff Moran was two times my height and in
better shape than I have ever been or ever could be.
One day I told McCarthy that I thought he was doing wrong by treating John Moran the way he was treating him and he said to me, “You are right, Rolando; let’s see what I can do about that,” and I never spoke to him or saw him again.
I was having lunch at the Sahara Hotel with someone I knew when John and Goldie Moran walked in; the man I was sitting with covered his face so Moran would not recognize him and reminded me that Moran was no longer the undersheriff.
I waited until the couple was seated and I walked over to their table and shook hands with John Moran and kissed his wife Goldie on the cheek. They both told me of John’s intention of running for sheriff
and I offered my help, which I also gave during his first race.
Later John Moran betrayed our friendship and allowed some of his corrupt allies to harm me and did nothing about it because I refused to do what they wanted me to do after casino owner Steve Wynn and
Sheriff John Moran had a falling out.
Wynn had fired Moran’s two sons from the Mirage Casino and Moran wanted to get even so he gathered the best guns METRO had at the time to go after Wynn and to talk to anyone who could give them any dirt on the casino man.
They told me that if I don’t know any dirt on Steve Wynn or Charles Myerson I could create or fabricate some. I refused and I paid the consequences.
While those three sheriffs may all have had their ups and down with me, I have the feeling, with the exception of Doug Gillespie, that the other sheriffs had some kind of respect for me because they know I
wasn’t seeking the spotlight or looking for publicity, choosing instead to stay in the background; the only time my picture has been publicized is recently when Chief Judge Bert Brown unintentionally
posted a picture of us together.
Sheriffs Keller and Young deep inside know that I tried to do the right thing and that is why they put up with me because they realize that if they told their side of the story, I would correct any wrong I
may have done. I consider myself man enough to rectify any mistake that I may have made in trying to do my job the right way.
This is the reason it is so difficult for me to comprehend a District Court Judge taking reprisals against members of my family for what was interpreted as a direct attack toward her by me personally, regardless of the good opinion I might or might not have of her.
Every day we learn something new. Next time someone asks me to write a letter of recommendation for a specific position, all I need to do is just smile and say: “Maybe someday…”
My name is Rolando Larraz, and as always, I approved this column.
* * * * *
Rolando Larraz is Editor in Chief of the Las Vegas Tribune. His column
appears weekly in this newspaper. To contact Rolando Larraz, email him
at: Rlarraz@lasvegastribune.com or at 702-272-4634.