by John L. Smith

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January 10, 2007
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Gibbons vs. Guinn spat aside, one Gaming appointee is superior

Gov. Jim Gibbons was sworn in three times last week, and the swearing hasn't stopped since.

Like one of those reality TV show contestants forced to perform a crazy stunt while strapped to a bungee cord, Gibbons has taken a press pummeling as he tries to untie the knots created by departing Gov. Kenny Guinn. Guinn's November appointment of his chief of staff, Keith Munro, to the Gaming Control Board picked Gibbons' pocket and generated ample embarrassment.

We'll see whether the new governor earned that merit badge in the Boy Scouts and can untie the triple bowline with his own appointment of veteran control board official Randall Sayre.

The Guinn-Gibbons dust-up ranks among the most childish exchanges between two top officeholders in recent Nevada history. I'll admit to taking a sick satisfaction from watching them snipe at each other, but the office change has been made, and it's time to act like grown-ups.

After all, isn't this the kind of behavior that dueling was created for?

Nevada history will remember a time during the Comstock era in which sparring newspaper editors and saloon louts settled their differences at paces with pistols. Ah, the good old days.

Is it too late to bring back the tradition and make this suggestion?

It would probably be less bloody and certainly less noisy.

Sources on Tuesday said a less violent and much classier scenario has Munro accepting a job offer either from the university system or the attorney general's office and Sayre taking over the gaming post.

The Gibbons-Guinn slap fight sullies the exiting chief's legacy and has turned Gibbons' first days in office into a pratfall festival. It also makes our vaunted system of casino regulation look like a bad Abbott and Costello routine called "Who's on board?" No matter your politics, this isn't good for the state or the office he occupies.

I know this is a political issue and we're supposed to pretend that the Guinn-Gibbons relationship is somehow more important than the credibility of the state's largest industry, but in the real world, the choice between Munro and Sayre is a proverbial no-brainer.

The 41-year-old Munro, who replaced retired FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Bobby Siller as the control board's law enforcement member, was Guinn's chief of staff for eight months before accepting the appointment after the November election. Before that, he was the governor's general counsel, deputy chief of staff and lawyer for the Department of Corrections. He also had experience as a deputy attorney general.

In short, Munro is a competent, respected person with marginal real law enforcement experience, but superior political contacts.

Can he do the job? Sure, he can do the job. A lot of people can do the job. And the line stretches from Searchlight to Jackpot with people willing to accept a state appointment that pays $125,000 a year. But that's not the point.

Under the controversial circumstances, the question is whether Munro is the right person for the job compared with Sayre.

If you go by a silly thing like actual experience, then Sayre is hands-down the right choice. He has worked at the Gaming Control Board as long as Munro, 41, has been old enough to drive a car. Sayre joined the board in 1981 and rose to the position of chief of investigations in June 1990.

For the past 16 years, Sayre has supervised financial and criminal investigations. He understands licensing suitability issues and has a thorough knowledge of gaming control's historical role and challenges.

He also has the kind of background it takes to face the new challenges of an industry that's gone global.

Then there's his 30 years of military experience, which includes rising to the rank of brigadier general and commanding more than 2,000 Army National Guard soldiers.

In short, Sayre is qualified. Munro is qualified to be Sayre's chief of staff.

Gubernatorial egos aside, that's the most important issue: the image and substance of gaming regulation in Nevada. Not that the Guinn-Gibbons brawl isn't entertaining - it is. Not that Gibbons' midnight swearing-in ceremony wasn't incredibly lame - it was.

Munro should resign immediately before the outside world sees how amateurishly Nevada really operates.

Short of that, I still say dueling is a viable option.

Editor's note: Munro's resignation of his contested appointment to take a job with the Nevada Attorney General's Office stalled Wednesday, apparently when those involved realized Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto doesn't have the authority to create and fund a new, unclassified executive position.

• John L. Smith's column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal's Opinion page. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jan 10, 2007 11:21PM Published Jan 10, 2007 03:00AM Copyright 2007 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.