Las Vegas Sands overtime lawsuit expands with race claim
12 October 2011
An overtime lawsuit filed by elite executive protection agents against casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. is getting nastier, with new charges of racial discrimination added to the suit on Tuesday.
Attorneys for the company, in the meantime, are accusing an attorney for the agents of pestering a Jewish security supervisor during a deposition with irrelevant and "insulting questions about race, his religion" and the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.
This suggestion of racism and anti-Semitism on the part of the agents’ Las Vegas attorney, Donald Campbell, was denied by Campbell who said the allegations were "obscene" and charged that this isn’t the first time such charges have been falsely leveled by Las Vegas Sands.
The suit began June 10 when nine executive security officers for Adelson and his family filed suit in U.S. District Court for Nevada against Las Vegas Sands charging they had been denied overtime in violation of federal law – charges later denied by the company.
The same day, Adelson and one of his companies was sued over similar allegations by a former personal driver for Adelson. Adelson was later dismissed as a defendant in that case and his companies have denied wrongdoing.
As the cases progressed, acrimony between Campbell and the company was evident as Campbell had previously litigated against Adelson and Las Vegas Sands in several other cases.
Among the disputes were whether the security agents’ case could be sealed, or hidden from the public, because of concerns about the safety of Adelson and his family.
The attorneys also fought over whether the highly-trained executive security officers could be reassigned to mundane guard duties at Las Vegas Sands’ Sands Expo Center; and over charges and denials that Campbell had tried to throw books at Adelson during a deposition in an earlier case.
In the latest development on Tuesday, Campbell amended the lawsuit to charge that three of the executive security officers for the Adelson family were never considered for higher-paying positions protecting Adelson personally because they are black.
"During the 14 years of its existence, the Las Vegas Sands Executive Protection Team (EPT) has never hired or promoted an African American executive protection agent (EPA) to the post of EPT 'supervisor' to personally guard Adelson," the amended complaint says. "The EPT, for all of its 14 years of existence, has been managed and controlled by an executive management team which has been comprised exclusively of former Israeli citizens who are white males."
The suit charged less-qualified white applicants were hired for these positions and alleged: "Additional evidence strongly suggesting racial discrimination by Las Vegas Sands may be gleaned from the fact that not a single member of its board of directors is an African American."
The amended complaint highlighted the qualifications of the black agents:
• James "Tony" Jackson, who received numerous decorations and commendations during an 18-year career with the U.S. Navy and prior to joining Las Vegas Sands had provided executive protection services to Oprah Winfrey as well as numerous officers and directors of major companies.
• James "Torrey Martin," who has worked as a principal of a charter high school and in law enforcements positions including juvenile counselor, probation officer and deputy sheriff in Maricopa County (Phoenix).
• DeJuan Robinson, a former professional football player who worked for the U.S. Marshals Service protecting federal judges and for its fugitive detail, including protecting judges handling the federal criminal case against terrorist Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman in New York; and later was the personal executive protection agent for Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy.
A spokesman for Las Vegas Sands on Wednesday declined comment on the new allegations of racial discrimination, as the company typically doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Separately, attorneys for both sides publicly filed previously-sealed court briefs after U.S. District Judge Philip Pro refused to seal the entire case, citing legal precedent that court proceedings are open except in unusual circumstances.
The previously-secret briefs, which in some cases had been redacted or edited to delete personal information about the Adelson family, showed Las Vegas Sands attorneys on Aug. 24 asked Pro to seal much of the case and bar the public from attending a court hearing on that request.
Their concern was that the agents’ legal team had filed publicly-available court documents and made statements in open court that could compromise the safety of Adelson and his family.
In one of the documents, Brian Nagel, a former top U.S. Secret Service officer who now heads security for Las Vegas Sands, complained that the agents’ legal team had made "improper and unnecessary disclosures" that have "compromised the safety of the protected family."
For instance, the lawsuit revealed that the agents provide continuous security for Adelson, his wife Dr. Miriam Adelson; their children and step-children and that the agents are armed and use an X-ray machine as part of their duties.
"This unnecessarily provided insight into the means and methods of security provided by the executive protection team that could be exploited by an adversary," Nagel said in a court declaration.
He went on to complaint that details about the ages and genders of the Adelson children had been disclosed, which he called "problematic because and adversary could take advantage of that information in attempting to identify the children, locate their school(s) or develop patterns of activities or personal habits, thereby exposing the children to harm."
Details also were disclosed about the agents and their families. This, along with their assertion they had developed a bond with the Adelson children, was a problem because it could provide "insight to an adversary that could be exploited through coercion or other means in order to gain additional information or access to the family," Nagel said in his court filing.
Information disclosed in the lawsuits about the travels of the Adelson family is also a security concern and Las Vegas Sands "is currently working with the FAA to keep the protected family’s travel plans sealed because of bona find security concerns," his filing said.
While not mentioned in the court briefs, an attorney for Las Vegas Sands and Adelson has noted in court that besides being a billionaire, Adelson is involved in high-profile and sometimes controversial causes. These involve Republican politics, Jewish groups and Israel.
Campbell, in his briefs that were unsealed Thursday, denied that any of the information made public in the lawsuit revealed anything new and to prove that he flooded the court with scores of news stories about the Adelsons in which their children are named and the Adelsons talk about the children.
He also provided numerous photos available on the Internet of Las Vegas Sands’ fleet of jets that the company uses for business and for the Adelsons' personal trips.
"For defendants Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Venetian Casino Resort and their chairman, Sheldon Adelson, motions to seal legal proceedings in which they are a party is as certain as night follows day," Campbell wrote in his filing. "Experience has shown that their motions to seal are driven by the compulsion to inhibit any critical examination of their actions, just as that same compulsion has inspired numerous unsuccessful defamation suits against newspapers and journalists who have demonstrated the temerity to publish anything which offends their hypersensitive nature."
As for the allegation he had asked inappropriate questions about the race and religion of Zohar Lahav, who heads the executive protection team, Campbell said his questions were aimed at showing that Lahav "has little, if any, regard for U.S. law" – particularly employment law.
For instance, he charged Lahav was unaware of the mandate in federal law that an employer must provide a leave of absence for an employee to serve in the armed forces – forcing one of his agents to use vacation time to fulfill his duties with the U.S. Navy Reserves.
Questions about whether Lahav, who is Jewish, favored Jewish agents or agents with Israeli backgrounds were aimed at determining if Christian or non-Israeli agents were discriminated against, the deposition transcript shows.
The suggestions the questions about race and religion were improper came because "defendants needed to concoct a ruse to conceal Lahav’s incompetence and settled upon obscene accusations of racism and anti-Semitism," Campbell wrote in his reply.
"The leveling of baseless charges of anti-Semitism is nothing new for Las Vegas Sands and its chairman," Campbell’s filing said.
In the bankruptcy case of Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, "Smith and the Las Vegas Review-Journal were similarly labeled as anti-Semitic," Campbell said in his reply.
In that case, Smith filed for bankruptcy in 2007 because of a libel lawsuit filed by Adelson.
"That claim was completely undermined when it was revealed that Smith’s own mother was a Jew," the filing said.
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