Barlow pleads guilty to a federal charge; resigns Las Vegas council seat

Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow speaks during the dedication of the rehabilitated historic Westside School Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. A lawyer for Barlow says the FBI is investigating the councilor's campaign contributions. [Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau file photo]

Ricki Barlow, a former political aide who turned politician in his own right, resigned Monday from the City of Las Vegas council seat he’s held since 2007.

“I am deeply ashamed of my conduct leading to my decision to plead guilty to a federal felony charge, specifically, fraudulently, converting campaign funds to my own personal use during my 2015 reelection campaign,” Barlow admitted at a quickly-arranged afternoon media availability.

Barlow took no questions afterward and left the dais in the City Council chambers.

It's a stunning fall for a young, connected local politician, bringing with it faint memories of the political corruption scandal that decimated the Clark County Commission in the mid- 2000’s.

“My hope in resigning, effective today, is to avoid to the greatest extent possible and adverse consequences to my beloved City of Las Vegas,” Barlow said.

RELATED | Councilman Ricki Barlow resigns, pleads guilty to fraud

Barlow’s troubles began in 2016 when news broke that he, and potentially others, were under investigation. The probe remained largely silent until earlier this month, when the Review-Journal reported a grand jury was hearing witnesses, possibly indicating the investigation was entering a new juncture.

“We’re not surprised at all. As a matter of fact, we anticipated it,” says community activist Katherine Duncan, who represents the Ward Five Chamber of Commerce. “I think by him stepping aside it gives him the opportunity to concentrate on his legal problems because we really need representation."

Duncan was one person behind a Barlow recall, which is now a moot point. Investigation aside, she was no fan, she said, of his efforts at historic preservation – especially efforts to preserve Las Vegas’ first African American casino, the Moulin Rouge, which is no longer.

“I was really disappointed by how he handled the Moulin Rouge,” Duncan says. “That really was a big blow to the community having that property destroyed.”

Ward 5 is Las Vegas’ historic west-side district, much of which is African-American. In some sections, Las Vegas’ recovering economy is passing Ward 5 by.

“There’s so much work to be done in this community in Ward 5 and we just don’t have the time to go through the grand jury and the FBI. We need a fresh start,” says Duncan.

Barlow was in his third term, prevented by term limits from running again. University Regent Cedric Crear had already announced he was running for the seat.

“Today’s developments are surprising, but the work of the people must go on,” Crear said Monday in a statement.

City Council can appoint a replacement to serve out Barlow’s term or it could hold a special election.

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