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John L. Smith: Is Gov. Guinn's Son A Winner Or Loser In Lawsuit Decision?

A long civil court fight ended last week with a bankruptcy judge’s decision to award a partial victory to a group of locals who claimed they were defrauded by the son of the late Governor Kenny Guinn.

The judge’s 115-page decision goes through the history of Las Vegas’ boom in the early 2000s, and the loans and deals made by Aspen Mortgage, a lending company run by Jeff Guinn.

The judge awarded $800,000 to Donna Ruthe and others, saying Aspen failed in its fiduciary duty on four of 26 challenged loans.

“It is certainly a partial victory. At least, that’s how Donna Ruthe perceives it,” State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith said. “What they were really looking for is for the judge to determine there was a systematic pattern of fraud as they were saying.”

Smith said the judge didn't find there was a systematic pattern but he also didn't find Guinn blameless either.

Smith explained that Aspen Mortgage was a broker between investors like the Ruthes and contractors, who for whatever reason, cannot get conventional loans. 

The loans give high returns but they're also high risk. During the high times of the 90s and early 2000s, the Ruthes and others made a lot of money but when the economy tanked, so did their investments.

The judge found there was information that was "fraudulently concealed" from borrowers and investors.

But the judge stopped short of saying Jeff Guinn defrauded the plaintiffs. Guinn is back in business with a new private lending operation.

Ruthe and others have suggested that Guinn was protected because of his connections to Nevada politics.

However, Smith points out there is a difference between something that is suspicious and something that rises to a criminal complaint in court.

“There were issues that the judge raised but he said over and over again in page after page that despite the allegations it didn’t rise to the level of liability,” he said.


“Michele Fiore, the city councilwoman, raised the issue of whether [city manager Scott] Adams contract should roll over. There was a deadline that was coming up in early April for that," Smith explained.

Fiore asked for a performance review of Adams before his contract is rolled over, but she put it into the council agenda in the 11th hour. She also called out Adams publically for problems she had with him.

Which Smith, who was at the meeting, said left the city manager embarrassed and angry. 

“That’s the nature of city hall these days. There is no shortage of hurt feelings going around," he said.

Out-going city councilman Bob Coffin took issue with Fiore, which lead to a very public dispute between the two of them during the city council meeting.

Smith points out that in the past council members have called out city managers because of politics going on behind the scenes but he's not sure that is what is going on or if the policy surrounding the city manager contract really does need to be fixed.


“I can’t say that he’s out of the picture forever, but I do have to tell you as a person who has followed politics, I haven’t seen many dumber things than Ruben Kihuen running out of Congress in the wake of scandal, under a sexual harassment cloud, immediately going back in and running for office again,” Smith said.

Smith said it was a "remarkably unsophisticated" move on Kihuen's part. He suggested instead of running for city council the former congressman should have done something positive for the community first before trying to seek office again.

John L. Smith, KNPR contributor

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.