John L. Smith: A Veteran’s Death And A Toast For Oscar Goodman


(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

American flags placed on headstones at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery flap in the wind Saturday, May 28, 2011, in Boulder City, Nev.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt fights to limit evidence about how widespread Legionella bacteria is at the Nevada State Veterans Home.

The information is being sought as part of a lawsuit filed by the family of a veteran who died at the Boulder City facility.

Last week’s primary election saw the rise of Danny Tarkanian and the fall of an embattled justice of the peace.

And cheers to former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who may have the City Hall plaza named in his honor.


The family of the late Army veteran Charlie Demos Sr. continues its legal battle with state authorities and the Boulder City veterans’ home. They want to know if the Legionella bacteria that contributed to Demos’ death in 2015 was isolated as they’ve been told or a sign of a much larger problem.

Attorney General Laxalt is arguing the family doesn’t have the right to know whether its loss was an isolated tragedy or part of a pattern. What’s the rationale?

Earlier this month there was a document that was filed by Laxalt’s office that basically says the Demos family has no legal rights to the information that there are HIPPA violations, those privacy rights that patients have.

Support comes from

The problem is they’re not asking for specific names necessarily. They’re really wondering if this is an isolated incident. Beyond that, there are previous incidents of problems at the Boulder City veterans’ home with treatment of patients.

It’s not the scandal that other veterans’ homes are around the country, but any time you have Legionella present, and a county health department study found Legionella in the veterans’ home. It found it in Demos room. And a study found it in his body.

The question is if there are more people are effected.

It is a serious issue on the national level. You have Veterans Administration homes throughout the country in city after city are losing residents to Legionella disease. It is not often reported and it has not been reported at a high level nationally. But if you do a search of it, you’ll find a number of cities, places with fairly good reputations, suffer from this challenge. It is a challenge to get rid of it once you’ve got it around the system. It is something you find in hospitals and things like that.

One of the most heated battles in the primary that just ended was for the Republican side of the Congressional District 3 race. It ended up with Danny Tarkanian defeating Michael Roberson.

Down the stretch I think it was obvious that he was giving Roberson a hard time on Roberson’s vote for more taxes. Roberson had a challenge and the challenge is: if you’re going to get through the primary you have to run as a conservative in the Republican Party. You have to run as a really hard-core conservative because those are the folks who get off the couch and vote in primaries.

The problem is Roberson is really not that kind of conservative. He clearly in the last session of the Legislature worked with the governor to expand the tax base to contribute more than a $1 billion to things like education, and a long suffering programs and areas of our state life. There are those realties and Tarkanian exploited that.

Despite his own challenges. His own business challenges and the fact that he has run and lost a number of races.

Even in that last week, when Roberson really started pumping up the volume, it didn’t work. It didn’t work in large part because it didn’t have to win 50 percent of the vote. Tarkanian won somewhere in the mid-30s. That was secured because he got to the conservative voters first and he won them over.

Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen ordered a public defender handcuffed in his courtroom just weeks before the election. Do you think a judge will handcuff someone again?

A message to the political scientists of the future: this is probably one of the most boneheaded moves. First of all, it was completely out of line and inappropriate and unprofessional. Setting that aside if you can, the timing of it was absolutely moronic. He was essentially inviting himself to leave office and of course, he got bounced in the primary. I don’t imagine that you’ll find many judges that are going to handcuff lawyers in the future.

There is an effort underway to keep former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman’s name alive downtown:

The city council is focused on naming the plaza at city hall after him. And as a guy who wrote a book about Oscar, I certainly got to know him over the years. And as mayor, those early years that people have probably forgotten now he was really leading a parade of one when it came to downtown redevelopment.

He was ridiculed pretty often in the press and just public generally. The businesses didn’t know what to make of him. He had one big idea after another. They didn’t always work out and quite often they didn’t work out. There were a number of professional sports plans that went to the wayside during his tenure.

But, what I think emerged from all of that energy and that kind of endless optimism was a sense that this wasn’t a done deal. That downtown wasn’t dead. That it could come back. 

John L. Smith, a columnist for the Daily Beast and a contributor/commentator for Nevada Public Radio, has the dish on all things Nevada.

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John L. Smith, Daily Beast columnist

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