Don Mello claims state officials slandered him

CARSON CITY - Donald J. Mello, former chief of the state Administrative Office of the Courts, has filed a federal suit saying slander by state workers has prevented him getting a job.

The lawsuit, seeking least $450,000 plus punitive damages, names the state, former acting court administrator Georgia Rohrs, Legislative Auditor Gary Crews and Deputy Auditor Rick Neil.

Mello served as AOC director from 1987 until January 1997. There were conflicting stories about his departure - he said he resigned, others said he was fired.

Rohrs replaced Mello on an acting basis. The suit claims there was an agreement between Mello and then-Chief Justice Miriam Shearing that all inquiries about his departure would be directed to Mello. But it didn't work out that way.

Mello contends Rohrs repeatedly made false statements about him to the Legislature regarding accounting and other records in the AOC. The lawsuit also claims Rohrs wrongfully accused Mello of theft, ''thus leading to an improper criminal investigation of him.''

The lawsuit alleges Crews and his auditors ''bore much animosity for Mr. Mello'' because he didn't cooperate in an audit of the court, and the resulting audit went beyond the scope of normal financial exams and charged there were irregularities.

The auditors, Mello said, wrongly blamed him for an inadequate system of internal controls, for not complying with inventory rules and for ''committing improper acts when making purchases with his own funds.''

Crews said he stands behind an audit of the Nevada Supreme Court and the AOC that showed numerous discrepancies. ''We went through a rigorous process,'' he added. ''The audit speaks for itself.''

The lawsuit doesn't name any Supreme Court justices as defendants, but quotes Justice Shearing as saying he was ''massaging the books,'' and Chief Justice Bob Rose as saying Mello was ''playing fast and loose with taxpayer money.''

''By providing false information to various governmental agencies, to private organizations and to newspapers, Mr. Mello was effectively blackballed from all employment or consulting work related thereto,'' the suit says.

Mello is the son of former state Sen. Don Mello of Sparks.


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