A fatal fire in downtown Las Vegas and the global pandemic dominated the Review Journal’s news and investigative efforts in 2020. However, our investigative team also uncovered flaws in the county’s child protection system, and state and court officials dropped the ball while collecting Refunds for Nevada Crime Victims.
The team also won nearly four years of legal battle with Clark County over the release of autopsy logs for children as part of an investigation into child protection measures in the county.
In 2021, we will continue to deliver reports that hold executives and agencies accountable and reveal misconduct in our communities.
Here is our team’s top investigative and corporate work in 2020:
The December 2019 Alpine Motel Apartments fire was the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas history, killing six people. The investigation team dug deep for months, revealing missed inspections, clashes between government officials over the building and the owner’s questionable background.
Our reporting revealed errors in the city’s inspection system. The stories revealed that the city had not inspected the property for over two years, even though it knew it was in poor condition.
Did a gap in the fire inspections endanger the Alpine apartments?
City police tried repeatedly to shut down the Alps, but city officials stood in the way, saying there weren’t enough violations to mark the property as a public nuisance.
Police called Alpine “the worst of the worst” and tried to shut it down. Las Vegas officials said no.
And the acoustic alarm, which could have warned sleeping residents of the fire, had been switched off.
Records show that the fire alarm was silenced weeks before the fatal fire in the city center
Exclusive recordings and interviews raise questions about the owner, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the deaths.
Once a teacher, this stealthy landlord built an empire in Vegas. Then 6 died.
The owner of an alpine motel was part of the federal anti-drug cartel investigation.
The records released in October also describe attempts by residents to escape the building.
The coronavirus pandemic engulfed the world and Nevada’s tourism-dependent economy was particularly hard hit.
The Review Journal continues the battle over government health records, some of which have not yet been published. However, the investigation team was still delving deep into the impact of the crisis to keep readers informed and provided vital background information for ever-changing COVID-19 data.
COVID-19 nursing home patients not isolated – 7 dead, 38 infected
More than 80% of Nevada nursing homes did not meet infection standards
Getting public records sometimes took weeks to respond to initial disapprovals from officials who refused to disclose critical health information and then challenged their decisions under the Nevada Public Records Act.
The reports from the Nevada hospital were kept secret amid the spread of the coronavirus
Strip casinos dominate the COVID chase list. Cosmopolitan at the top
Nevada Stops COVID Exposure Reports For Workplaces, Hotel Casinos
Reporters also wrote about the concerns of people who believed the governor had exceeded his authority in closing the state.
Business leaders hit Sisolak on slow reopening plans
Western states begin reopening while Nevada waits.
Stories documented the impact on different communities and businesses.
Nevada’s 27 tribal nations say they were left behind amid a pandemic
COVID could have imploded projects like Resorts World. Why not?
Postal workers have seen a sudden surge in COVID in the past few weeks
OSHA officials began investigating the virus among postal workers after the story ran.
Rats moved into the neighborhood as COVID stores closed
Reporter Michael Scott Davidson helped create a persistent data page showing the impact of the pandemic on Nevada.
Criminal Police, Failure of CPS
While the breaking news dominated 2020, the team uncovered other issues with the government, such as a failure to raise millions in reimbursements for crime victims in Nevada and a criminal investigation by a lawmaker.
When criminals don’t pay
Police are investigating the Las Vegas congregation leader’s use of campaign funds
The review journal also received internal documents detailing interactions between the county child protection officers and the family of 13-year-old Aaron Jones, whose decomposed body was found on vacant desert property. The records show that district officials repeatedly failed to remove the boy and his siblings despite warnings from school officials. The documents also describe a judge’s questionable decision to place the boy with his father despite a recent conviction of child molestation. The father is accused of killing Aaron.
A recipe for disaster
On the last day of the year, Clark County court ordered 653 child autopsy reports from 2012 through 2017 that the Review Journal can use to investigate child protection officers’ actions in cases of abuse.
Autopsy records were published in the Review Journal after years of litigation
Protests against Black Lives Matter dominated national and local news this summer, with reporters investigating the individuals involved and questionable allegations made by an official.
Records disagree with Fiore’s claims of killing whites.
Arrests in Boogaloo reveal new extremist agenda for kidnapping protests
The team also brought some exclusive news and delved into high profile legal proceedings.
One story revealed that an important piece of evidence helped the FBI capture a sophisticated ring of armored vehicle robbers.
A clue helped the FBI police solve daring attacks on armored trucks.
An exclusive revealed an attempt to blackmail the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Dana White named as a victim of blackmail in the sex tape case.
And a report showed how when a Las Vegas businessman pledged to protect people’s money, things went terribly wrong.
Mr. Elliot promised his customers that his private safe would be safe. He was wrong.
The team also briefed readers on a 2017 investigation by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and reported on the settlement of criminal charges. For three years, the Review Journal’s investigation team showed that the agency had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on questionable things like booze, expensive restaurants and nightclubs. The stories sparked an audit that found tens of thousands of Southwest Airlines gift cards were being used by top managers for personal travel. The audit resulted in criminal charges that were settled for several of the defendants in 2020, which generated significant criticism.
The tourism boss is charged with crime and gets a treasure deal.
Contact Arthur Kane at [email protected] Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review Journal’s investigation team and is focused on reporting that holds executives and agencies accountable and uncovering wrongdoing. Contact other members of the team: Contact Rachel Crosby at [email protected] or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter; Michael Scott Davidson at [email protected] or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter; Contact Jeff German at [email protected] or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.