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Henderson police chief sticks to his guns on concealing names of clients

Trying to sweet-talk Henderson Police Chief Richard Perkins into disclosing the clients of his political consulting business proved two things Tuesday: He’s unyielding in refusing to disclose, and I need to work on my sweet-talking skills.

Perkins repeatedly insisted that it’s nobody’s business whether he has a side business with private clients. I repeatedly insisted he should disclose his clients, arguing that as police chief, he has an obligation to be up-front about his business dealings.

He said his clients do not pose a conflict of interest. I said: Tell the public who they are, and then let the public decide what’s a conflict and what’s not.

I suggested that it would be smart for him to disclose even if he’s not legally required to. He disagreed.

I said this wouldn’t look good if he runs for another office in the future. The former Assembly speaker, who dropped out of the 2006 race for governor, said the beating he’s taken in the Review-Journal since the story broke last week has made it far less likely that he will run again.

What he does in his private life, he said, “is really none of anybody’s damn business.”

Perkins did what was required. He told Henderson City Manager Phil Speight that he was going to start a consulting business, and Speight OK’d RDP Strategies, even without knowing who the clients are.

Speight didn’t know it was a political consulting business. He thought it was a law enforcement consulting business.The only slight bit of yielding Perkins has done since the Review-Journal’s Molly Ball broke the story of his business: The police chief went to Speight and disclosed to him who his three clients are.

Knowing that, Speight still believes there are no conflicts, explained Henderson spokeswoman Cindy Herman.

Before Perkins disclosed his client list, Speight operated on the “trust me” philosophy.

Speight knows and trusts the police chief. Using that philosophy, nobody would have to disclose in Mayberry … um, Henderson, because everybody knows Andy Griffith … um, Richard Perkins.

Trust, don’t verify. It’s not President Reagan’s way, but it’s Henderson’s way. (Do we know why they sometimes still call Henderson Hooterville?)

Because we don’t know Perkins’ clients, we don’t know whether he’s working to help land developers, casino operators or any other wide-ranging kind of businesses. We don’t know whether he’s helping companies who he might have helped as Assembly speaker, which the really cynical might call payback. He believes that because he no longer is an elected official but an appointed police chief, he doesn’t have to disclose. I couldn’t disagree more.

Perhaps Perkins has no conflicts, but in today’s Southern Nevada, where four county commissioners were definitely crooks, why is he the fellow who doesn’t have to disclose?

If Perkins needs more money to support his family above the police chief’s salary of $157,276, at the minimum he should disclose who his other employers are. What kind of companies is he working for that they don’t want it known he’s working for them?

Is Perkins trying to help Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss get that long-awaited brothel for women outside Pahrump? I predicted in November 2005 that the superstud farm never would fly … and it still hasn’t.

Perkins insisted he works 80 hours a week as police chief and gives it his all, but he said his consulting business is like a hobby, a way for him to keep involved with social policy, and takes about 10 hours a month.

“It’s not even about the income,” he said. “I enjoy public policy networking.”

But you can bet your kid’s college fund that the hourly rate of pay is well above minimum wage. We will just have to wonder whether he charges more per hour than Yvonne Atkinson Gates’ kid.

In his view, as long as the job doesn’t involve Henderson, he has no conflict. I argued that in the work of complex business and private relationships, there might be conflicts he doesn’t recognize.

“This just reminds me why I didn’t run for governor,” Perkins said, wearying of the discussion. “It’s my private life.”

Actually, it’s not. But he won’t yield on that, and neither will I.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0275.

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