Trip to Sin City on taxpayers’ dime

Taxpayers will have to pay more than $14,000 for an off-duty relay race involving county law enforcement officers that ended with the sheriff and undersheriff being swept up in a brothel bust last month.

Overall, the county will foot the bill for $14,075 in expenses for the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup — a 120-mile relay race across the desert — that 54 employees from the Sheriff’s Office, jails, probation and District Attorney’s Office took part in using public funds, apparently in violation of county policy, according to a county controller’s analysis released Monday.

“It’s an amount that [the county] should not have to bearand that could be much better spent to help local residents here,” said county Supervisor Jerry Hill.

Sheriff Greg Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos were detained and questioned March 21 by Las Vegas police in Operation Dollhouse, a raid on a handful of brothels near the Las Vegas strip, said officer Bill Cassell of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

No charges were filed against Munks or Bolanos and they were released after questioning. The target of the raids was brothel operators and managers, as well as prostitutes, some of whom were foreigners believed to be working against their will, Cassell said.

Munks, who participated in the relay race, was looking for a massage because he was sore from running and unknowingly ended up at the brothel, Bolanos said.

Eleven county vehicles were used in the April 21-22 event — making up $5,971 of the total cost — without the approval of the county manager. The use of the vehicles appears to violate county policy, officials said. A further breakdown of the costs shows that $6,276 went to pay the salaries of sheriff employees who made preparations for the event, and a trip to Los Angeles by sheriff’s “team captains” to meet with the relay’s sponsor, the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club.

The Sheriff’s Office had stated that the only expenses charged to the county were related to vehicle use. The Sheriff’s Office didn’t return a call for comment Monday.

In addition, the county Probation Department paid $1,500 to register 25 of its employees for the run, according to the controller’s analysis. The District Attorney’s Office, which had three participants, didn’t bill the county for costs.

“County personnel and property should only be used for legitimate county business purposes,” Supervisor Mark Church said, emphasizing that the race didn’t qualify.

While vehicle, payroll, registration andother expenses associated with the event were charged to the county, personnel participated on their own time and paid for their own lodging and meals, according to the analysis.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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