In a historic decision Thursday, the Nevada Assembly expelled Democrat Steven Brooks from his North Las Vegas district seat.
“Steven Brooks is hereby expelled from the Assembly, and I declare Assembly District 17 vacant,” said a tearful Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, also D-North Las Vegas, after the vote. Brooks is the first Nevada lawmaker to be expelled.
The decision was made on a voice vote, not a roll call, and there were only a very few weak “no” voices heard.
The Clark County Commission is charged with appointing a replacement so District 17 has a representative in the Assembly.
“How dare they?” Brooks told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview immediately after the voice vote. “I’ve been convicted of nothing.”
Brooks alleged that unspecified opponents have tried to kill him. He didn’t take questions.
“Yes, tried to kill me,” he said. “I’m an open book. They won’t let me testify at the Grant Sawyer Building, and they sent 100 police officers to arrest me.”
“Let me ask you, how can they do that?” Brooks added before hanging up.
Majority Floor Leader William Horne said the documentation, which remains secret at this point, “paints a picture of a man who is volatile, prone to angry outbursts and potentially dangerous.”
Horne, D-North Las Vegas, said it would have been “negligent and actionable” to allow him to return to the Assembly.
He also pointed out that Brooks chose not to appear at Tuesday’s hearing, in which the Select Committee reviewed some 900 pages of investigative material to present his side of the case. The committee relied instead on his lawyer.
Horne said that while most of the process was conducted behind closed doors — which he said is permitted by the state Constitution in cases involving the conduct and mental stability of an elected official — the meeting was opened after the evidence was reviewed, “during which we deliberated and voted in public.”
That “deliberation” consisted of taking a motion to expel Brooks, followed by a brief one- or two-line statement from each of the seven committee members before the vote.
The problems began when Brooks allegedly threatened Kirkpatrick’s life because she refused to name him chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Horne said after that, Brooks continued to engage in angry outbursts and questionable behavior, leaving the Assembly no choice but to bar him from the building for the safety of the legislative staff, the public and members of the body.
Horne said after the vote he believes that, while most of the investigative materials are confidential, the body gave Brooks and his constituents enough information to understand why he was being removed. He cited news reports of Brooks’ conduct.
Horne expressed hope that the troubled Assemblyman would get the help he needs to straighten out his life.
Republican Wes Duncan of Las Vegas joined Horne in supporting expulsion, referring to the confidential investigative report.
“There was paranoia, mood swings, outbursts and a propensity to violence I saw in those documents that would give everyone here pause,” he said. “And there was no indication from Mr. Brooks that there was an understanding on his part he needs to get help or was moving to get it.”
He said that demonstrated to him that Brooks was incapable of serving.
“Is Mr. Brooks serving not only his constituents but serving the state? The answer is no,” Duncan said.
North Las Vegas Democrat Dina Neal was one of the few voting against expulsion. She said she was not convinced he should go despite the growing number of incidents of bizarre and seemingly threatening conduct. She agreed he should remain suspended but said she doesn’t believe expulsion is warranted.
After the threats against Kirkpatrick, there were several alleged incidents including one involving a sword outside a relative’s Southern Nevada home and charges of domestic battery being committed against his estranged wife. That incident involved a scuffle with police in which he allegedly tried to take the arresting officer’s gun. He faces resisting-arrest and domestic-violence charges in that case.
Brooks was at one point ordered held for 72 hours for psychological evaluation. More recently, he tried to buy a hunting rifle from a sporting-goods store in Sparks but was denied.
The Supreme Court acted quickly following the Assembly’s vote. Late Thursday, the high court issued an order dismissing the petition Brooks had filed requesting an order that he be seated. The order said that because Brooks named the Legislature in his petition and it’s the Constitution, not lawmakers, that gives authority over seating members to “each house,” the embattled Assemblyman failed to sue the proper party.
Horne said after the vote that Brooks remains barred from the Legislature because of fears he might be a danger to himself and others.
Thursday marked the first time the Legislature initiated the expulsion of a member since a lawmaker was accused of libeling other members in 1867, although that case never came to a formal vote. Back then, Assemblyman A.H. Lissak of Storey County had published a letter referring to the Assembly speaker’s “sore-eyed, red-haired, baboon-looking face” in a political feud that prompted a ban on Territorial Enterprise reporters from the chambers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“Is Mr. Brooks serving not only his constituents but serving the state? The answer is no.”
— Wes Duncan