Elected officials respond to FBI raids in Vegas, San Diego

LAS VEGAS -- Elected officials named in a sweeping federal investigation into possible public corruption stretching from Las Vegas to San Diego said Thursday that they had done nothing wrong.

The denials came as some details of the two-year FBI investigation emerged the day after agents stormed three strip clubs and the offices of three San Diego City Councilmen.

A federal warrant and a Clark County attorney said the FBI was looking for evidence of graft involving the clubs' owners and the officials.

Public officials in Las Vegas and San Diego said they didn't know why they had been targeted. In Las Vegas, a county commissioner and three former commissioners -- along with their spouses -- were named in connection with probe.

"My vote is not for sale," Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Never has been, never will be. You never really know, but I don't believe anyone on our commission takes bribes. Of course, I always think the best of everyone until proven otherwise."

No charges have been filed and no arrests were made, officials said.

The FBI declined to comment on the investigation and has released few details. Spokeswomen for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego and Las Vegas declined to comment.

But a federal search warrant and a Clark County attorney who sat in on an interview between the county business license director and FBI agents said authorities were looking for evidence of "gifts or payments" to elected officials from strip club owners Jack Galardi, 72, and his son, Michael Galardi, 41.

"They were asking whether any representative of Galardi, including Lance Malone, had ever given any favors to expedite any applications regarding Cheetah's and Jaguars," said Mary Miller, a county attorney.

Malone is a former Las Vegas police officer who served on the Clark County commission until 2000, and then worked as a consultant for Galardi on projects in Las Vegas and San Diego.

A source close to the investigation in Las Vegas confirmed authorities were eyeing the 41-year-old Malone. Messages left on his answering machine were not returned.

Miller said the FBI had issued subpoenas and was looking for unreported campaign contributions.

The FBI also searched Galardi's downtown Las Vegas offices Wednesday. Galardi and his son have wide-ranging interests in southern Nevada, Atlanta, Miami and Tampa, Fla. Michael Galardi owns Cheetah's in Las Vegas and San Diego. They own the Jaguars Gentleman's Club in Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, Clark County Manager Thom Reilly said the public should be careful about drawing conclusions.

"The FBI hasn't provided us any information suggesting there's been any wrongdoing," Reilly said." Our concern is obviously the reputation of the county and any broad strokes applied to the community."

Dario Herrera, who ran unsuccessfully in November for Congress, and formerly chaired the county commission, denied any wrongdoing Thursday.

He said the investigation had taken him by "complete surprise."

Former commissioner Erin Kenny who lost a bid last year for lieutenant governor did not return messages left on her answering machine.

Also named in the warrant was Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald, who said the FBI had contacted him but declined to say what was discussed. McDonald said he never voted on projects connected to Michael Galardi, whom he has described as a longtime friend.

In San Diego, the mood and reaction to the raids was similar.

City Council members Ralph Inzuzna, Charles Lewis and Michael Zucchet -- the three council members whose offices were raided Wednesday -- each denied wrongdoing.

"We're baffled," said Tony Young, Lewis' chief of staff. "We don't know what the feds are up to."

In their 2002 election campaigns, Lewis and Inzuzna were criticized for taking contributions from Galardi-affiliated businesses, La Fuente and Cheetah's.

San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn said he would review city records over the past three years in response to the investigation.

City Councilwoman Toni Atkins said Thursday that she was subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury and planned to cooperate. Her lawyer, Ezekiel Cortez, said her appearance was postponed from Friday to a date yet to be set.

Cortez said investigators told him that Atkins is not a target of the investigation.


Associated Press Writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this article.


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