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TAX DOLLAR WASTE? Hundreds flew in Metro's chopper | P2

Reported by: Reed Cowan
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Updated: 3/11/2014 7:47 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- In addition to Guns N’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba, the list of 301 people to fly on Las Vegas Metropolitan Police helicopters since 2010 includes film production crews, participants in a public relations photo shoot, a documentarian and a large number of people identified as “citizen observers.”

One of the flights was for employees of the reality show “COPS,” created by Langley Productions, which is listed on political campaign financial reports as a past donor to the campaign of retiring Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

Video from a 2012 ride can be found on YouTube, with the man who shot the video living in Naples, Fla. A chopper spotlight can be seen in the video shining on Strip megaresorts, streets and swimming pools. The videographer can be heard saying: “Wow. That’s incredible. Beautiful. Unbelievable,” while disclosing that he “stayed at the Cosmo” the night before.

Details of the flights have arisen as part of A News 3 investigation of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police records showing that no Las Vegas Metro supervisor approved the August flight by Ashba, the rock star.

The total price tag for the $485-an-hour rides was nearly $146,000 at a time when the police agency is seeking a sales tax hike to hire more police officers.

Ashba flew on a Metro chopper to propose to his girlfriend, with photos of the August flight ending up on social media, prompting a Metro investigation and punishment for those involved.

Metro police officials provided News 3 with a copy of the waiver for one of Ashba’s flights -- a document that lacked the signature of any supervisors, angering Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who oversees Metro’s operations and budget.

In the months after the flight, the Gun N’ Roses co-lead guitarist maintained that his flight was approved by Metro supervisors and the agency’s protocol was followed, but Metro records show that Ashba’s account is not true.

“This was a violation of policy because a supervisor should have signed off,” Metro spokesman Lawrence Hadfield wrote in an email to News 3.

Sisolak said that he asked for copies of waivers signed for other freebie citizen flights, as well as proof that every flight was approved by a supervisor. Rather, he says, he received “nothing” in response to his requests.

Sisolak was shown video of the YouTube images and was disturbed by what he saw.

“This looks more like a tour than a helicopter patrol,” he said. “This is what regular junkets do. Yes. You pay for those.”

“I’m surprised at the same time I’m totally not shocked,” Sisolak said. “This is an issue of accountability and transparency and I’ve had a difficulty getting information out of Metro.”

Las Vegas Metro officials say the entire episode reflects a “perception problem,” and they had provided Sisolak with the identities of those permitted to fly.

“We want to share what we have…there’s no reason not to share it,” Metro’s Hadfield said.

News 3 has posted online the list of those who got to fly in 2012.



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