Oscar Baylin Goodman (born July 26, 1939) is an American attorney and politician. He had been the mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada from 1999 to 2011. Goodman is an Independent and a former member of the Democratic Party.
Goodman was born and raised in Philadelphia. After attending Central High School for a time, he graduated from The Haverford School, Haverford College and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He and his wife Carolyn have four children.
During his career as a defence attorney he represented defendants accused of being a few of the leading organized crime figures in Las Vegas, like Meyer Lansky, Nicky Scarfo, Herbert "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein, Phil Leonetti, former Stardust Casino boss Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal, and Jamiel "Jimmy" Chagra, a 1970s drug trafficker who was acquitted of ordering the murder of Federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. One of his notorious clients was reputed Chicago mobster Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, who was known to have a short and violent temper. In the semi-factual 1995 movie Casino, the character of Nicky Santoro was based on Spilotro and was portrayed by actor Joe Pesci. Goodman had a cameo appearance in the film as himself while defending "Ace Rothstein", a character closely based on Lefty Rosenthal and played by Robert De Niro.
Goodman additionally represented former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock, who was convicted of accepting illegal campaign contributions and eventually forced to resign. Hedgecock was later cleared of all charges on appeal.
Goodman was a senior partner in the law firm of Goodman & Chesnoff. Goodman currently serves as Of Counsel to Goodman Law Group, a Las Vegas law firm formed by his son, Ross C. Goodman. Goodman was elected mayor of Las Vegas on June 8, 1999, receiving 32,765 (63.76 percent) votes while his opponent, then-Las Vegas City Councilman Arnie Adamsen, received 18,620 (36.24 percent). Goodman was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2003, defeating five opponents and receiving 29,356 (85.72 percent) of the votes. On April 3, 2007, he had been re-elected to a third and final term with 26,845 votes (83.69 percent), again defeating five opponents. Las Vegas law prevents the mayor, who has been called the town's "most popular mayor", from serving more than three terms.
Goodman was a member of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority before being elected mayor.
On June 8, 1999, he had been elected mayor of Las Vegas.
On June 28, 1999, Goodman was the first mayor of Las Vegas to have his image placed on $5 and $25 casino chips issued by a Las Vegas casino. The two chips were issued by the Four Queens Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas. In 2006, the Four Queens put out a $200 Silver Strike with the likeness of Oscar on it.
In 2002, he became a spokesman for Bombay Sapphire gin, receiving a $100,000 salary which was donated to charity, including $50,000 donated to The Meadows School, a private school in Las Vegas founded by his wife Carolyn.
In 2003, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith wrote a book titled Of Rats and Men: Oscar Goodman's Life from Mob Mouthpiece to Mayor of Las Vegas, which chronicles Goodman's life, including 35 years spent defending notorious U.S. crime figures, including, amongst others, Meyer Lansky, Anthony "Tony The Ant" Spilotro and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal (The last two were portrayed respectively, and under different names, in the film Casino by Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro).
In 2003, Goodman was voted the Least Effective Public Official in the Review-Journal's annual reader's poll.
Goodman has been vocal about having a Major League Baseball team relocate to Las Vegas. In 2004 the city failed to secure a move by the Montreal Expos to the city. Instead, the team relocated to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Nationals. Later that year, Goodman met with officials of the Florida Marlins. The Chicago White Sox were considering a move but talks fell through after Chicago officials provided incentives for the team to stay.
In recent years, Goodman has tried to get National Football League teams to Las Vegas. On April 24, 2006, he called the San Diego Chargers and asked if they would be interested in moving. Due to a contract, the city couldn't talk about a possible move. On January 4, 2007 he called again, after the team wasn't allowed to talk to additional cities about a possible move. Again, Goodman was turned down "for the time being. According to Mark Fabiani, the Chargers general counsel, Goodman is a longtime season ticket holder of the Chargers and a fan.
He guest starred twice as himself on CSI in the episodes "Sqweegel" while defending Ann-Margret's character from being harassed by the LVPD and "Maid Man" CBS, first appearing at the opening of the Mob Museum, which was re-created for the show in advance of its opening.
Seeking higher office
Goodman briefly entertained challenging presidential son Jack Carter for the Democratic nomination to run against incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Ensign in 2006. Notwithstanding on April 20, Goodman announced that he wouldn't run but instead would run for a third term as mayor. After winning the mayoral election in 2007, Goodman, like his counterpart Michael Bloomberg in New York City, looked into a means to change the city charter to remove term limits. In the absence of that change, Goodman fueled speculation that he might run as an Independent in the 2010 gubernatorial race against embattled incumbent, Republican Jim Gibbons, and the presumptive Democrat candidate, Rory Reid. Notwithstanding Goodman decided to drop out of the race for governor, citing his desire to stay close to his family and objections to moving to the capital Carson City. Goodman has appeared interested in higher office and was the focus of a storey (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) about being the First Jewish president of the United States by Las Vegas commentator Dayvid Figler.
In February 2004, Robert Rose, an ethics watchdog, filed a complaint with the Nevada Commission on Ethics claiming that throughout the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Goodman handed out to fellow mayors, conference attendees and additional political figures invitations to a drinks party Goodman was hosting. Rose alleged that this was nothing more than the mayor abusing his power of office to help promote a business that's owned by his son, Ross Goodman, and Las Vegas Councilman Michael Mack. The Nevada Ethics Commission opened an investigation on April 14, 2004, and on May 13, 2004, the members of the commission found the mayor in ethics violations, although no fine was rendered. Goodman sued the commission and won; the commission's ruling was reversed by the court.
On September 16, 2004, Rose again filed a complaint with the Nevada Commission on Ethics, this time asking the commission to clarify Goodman's affiliation with his son Ross's law firm. In a statement, the mayor explained his name on the letterhead is a way of informing out of state law firms that Ross Goodman is his son. Notwithstanding a person serving as an elected public official in Nevada might not have his name listed on a law firm letterhead, and Goodman removed his name under protest after several newspaper articles noted the infraction.
On July 18, 2005, the Nevada Commission on Ethics concluded insufficient cause for a hearing and recommended the allegations be dismissed, clearing Goodman of the ethics complaint regarding his name listed as "Of Counsel" to Goodman Law Group.
Remarks to schoolchildren
On March 3, 2005, Goodman spoke to a group of fourth-graders at Jo Mackey Elementary School. When asked what he would take with him if marooned on a desert island, the mayor replied, "A bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin." When asked about his hobbies, the mayor named drinking Bombay Sapphire Gin as a favorite. Later, when asked to comment about his statements, Goodman was unapologetic: "I'm the George Washington of mayors. I can't tell a lie. If they didn't want the answer, the kid shouldn't have asked the question." This caused an outcry from parents whose children heard the remark, and school officials said the remark was inappropriate.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas
In July 2006 the mayor criticised the Ubisoft game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas for its premise of terrorism in Las Vegas, because he thought it might tarnish the city's image. He stated, "It's based on a false premise.... It can be harmful economically, and it might be something that's not entitled to free speech (protection).... I'll ask... whether or not we can stop it." Publication of the game hasn't been hindered.
Currently, prostitution is legal in Nevada only in rural counties with fewer than 400,000 residents, a requirement which excludes Clark County and the city of Las Vegas from allowing the practice. Mayor Goodman supports legalising prostitution in the city's downtown area as a revenue generator and tool for revitalization, although a majority of Nevadans polled in 2003 opposed the mayor's position. Goodman's views on prostitution have been criticised by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, as well as Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston.