Unfinished Business

Susan Clark-Johnson has yet to leave the board of directors of Harrah's Entertainment

On August 2, the Arizona Republic reported that its new CEO had resigned her position as a member of the board that runs Harrah's casinos, in preparation for her move to Arizona from Nevada.

But more than five weeks later, Susan Clark-Johnson has yet to leave the board of directors of Harrah's Entertainment.

"She's still a member of our board," company spokesman Gary Thompson said Friday. He says he's heard nothing about a pending resignation from Clark-Johnson, who would have to submit a letter if she were to step down.

Harrah's Web site still lists Clark-Johnson as a member of its board of directors.

Clark-Johnson came to the Republic from Reno, where she was publisher of the Reno Gazette-Journal, a paper owned by Gannett, the company that recently purchased Arizona's largest newspaper. Harrah's is one of Reno's largest employers, and one of the Gazette-Journal's largest advertisers. Clark-Johnson was criticized for her board membership from the time she joined it in 1994. That year, the media trade journal Columbia Journalism Review gave the Gazette-Journal a "dart" for "playing roulette with its credibility."

Reno activists complained, as well. Earlier this year, dozens of people picketed the Gazette-Journal, calling on Clark-Johnson to end her affiliation with Harrah's.

Clark-Johnson did not return a call from New Times. Nor did she return calls placed to her office last month for a story about Gannett's purchase of the Republic and her new role as CEO/president. ("Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss," Amy Silverman, August 10).

She did, however, grant an interview to the Arizona Republic, which concluded its short article by paraphrasing Clark-Johnson: "She said she recently resigned from the Harrah's board due to her new job and pending move to Phoenix."

That could be because Harrah's does business here, too. Harrah's operates a casino just outside Phoenix for the Ak-Chin Indians. The company does not report revenues from the site on its federal securities reports. The casino, opened in 1994, features 38,000 square feet of gaming space with hundreds of slot machines, keno, poker and a bingo hall.

Jake Highton, an ethics professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada's Reno campus, told New Times last month that Clark-Johnson has a perception problem.

"You cannot be in a compromising position," Highton says. "As Pulitzer said years ago, a newspaper should have no friends."

 
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