Posted on: September 8, 2020, 02:09h.
Last updated on: September 8, 2020, 03:58h.
Cathy Tull, a former marketing executive at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), has settled her criminal case of misusing Southwest Airlines gift cards.
Tull, 53, pleaded no contest in Las Vegas Justice Court to a misdemeanor charge of a being a public official who disobeyed laws regarding their conduct. Justice of the Peace Harmony Letizia ordered Tull to pay a $500 fine, and the case was settled.
In part of the arrangement, the court dismissed two felony charges of theft and misconduct of a public officer, which carried potential prison time. By pleading no contest, Tull did not admit guilt, but acknowledged there might be enough evidence to warrant a conviction at trial.
Tull, her ex-boss, LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter, and former LVCVA Director of Business Partnerships Brig Lawson were criminally accused of devising a scheme in which tax funds allocated to the Las Vegas tourism and marketing agency were used to purchase $90,000 worth of Southwest gift cards. The airline credits were allegedly used by the trio for personal travel.
The LVCVA was founded in 1955 with the mission of increasing tourism to Southern Nevada.
Ralenkotter reached a similar deal with the Justice Court last month. He pleaded no contest to the same misdemeanor charge and was fined $1,000.
Law enforcement alleged that Ralenkotter used nearly $17,000 worth of Southwest credit for personal travel, and Tull $6,000. Audits could not account for more than $50,000 worth of the cards.
Ralenkotter’s base salary prior to his resignation was $440,000. He was receiving a nearly $300,000 annual state pension, plus a $15,000 per month consultant fee. Despite the criminal charges against them, neither was booked at the Clark County Detention Center, not fingerprinted, or had their mug shots taken.
Both Rallenkotter and Tull repaid the LVCVA before their departures.
The case against Lawson is ongoing. The felony charges against Eric Woodson, the former Southwest marketing executive who was linked to the scheme, have been dismissed.
The LVCVA’s recent scandals have certainly put a black eye on the agency.
Critics have long lambasted the LVCVA’s robust annual budget, which was $358.15 million during the 2020 fiscal year. It’s been slashed, largely due to the coronavirus and a drastic drop in Clark County room taxes, by 43 percent. It now stands at $206.6 million for the 2021 FY.
In a 2017 probe by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the media outlet found that the Authority expensed $700,000 on alcohol and $85,000 on “adult entertainment” during a three-year period.
Weekly was accused of taking his daughter on a trip to Dallas with $1,400 in Southwest gift card money. He returned the funds, but remains a commissioner and on the LVCVA board.