Assemblyman left off education committee

Las Vegas Assemblyman Wendell Williams, under criticism for his driving and using his influence to get a promotion for a friend, got an apparent slap from legislative leaders Wednesday when he was left off the interim legislative Committee on Education.

Since the committee was created to oversee public education issues and dispense funding for programs in the mid-1990s, the chairmanship has rotated between Senate Finance Chairman Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Williams.

Because Raggio chaired the panel during the last break between legislative sessions, Williams was expected to claim the gavel this time.

But Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, told the legislative commission Wednesday he had submitted a change in the proposed list of lawmakers sitting on that commission. No further explanation was made before commission chairman Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, accepted a motion to make Perkins chairman of the committee this year.

Williams, 53, a Democrat, was not among Assembly members appointed to the education panel.

Neither Perkins nor Williams could be reached for comment.

The removal of Williams from the education panel follows last week's Nevada Appeal report that Williams was facing arrest for failure to appear on an aggressive-driving citation and that he had been driving for most of the prior 19 months on a suspended license.

The arrest warrant has been dropped. According to Reno Justice Court officials, Williams paid $600 by Western Union money order to clear the ticket and warrant on Sept. 19 -- the day news reports about his driving record were published in the Appeal. The aggressive driving citation cost him $500, and the failure to appear another $100.

Nevada Highway Patrol records show the aggressive driving ticket was issued following a formal complaint filed by a Reno man who claimed Williams tailgated him-- less than a car-length back at 80 mph -- while driving south through Washoe Valley on May 1.

When he changed lanes, the resident alleged, Williams did the same to other cars on the road. According to the complaint, Williams "then accelerated through Washoe Valley at speeds in excess of 110 mph."

According to the report, the investigator was advised by NHP dispatchers "the same vehicle had been reported numerous times in the past few weeks." Williams was conspicuous throughought the legislative session driving a silver BMW Z4 sports car.

The incident report showed another caller had reported the same vehicle -- a BMW sports car bearing license plate "Assembly 5" -- speeding and weaving between lanes on Highway 395 on April 24.

A similar complaint about the same vehicle with Williams at the wheel "speeding and cutting people off" in Pleasant Valley between Reno and Carson City was phoned to the Highway Patrol on April 28. The investigator reported that Patrol Capt. Chris Perry of Las Vegas reported Williams passing him at high speed through Washoe City on May 12. Perry, who was off duty at the time, estimated Williams' speed at in excess of 110 mph.

Potentially more serious is a report questioning whether Williams attempted to use his influence to help a young woman, described as his assistant, to keep her job and then get a promotion within the university system.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the woman, Topazia "Bridget" Jones, was hired on Williams' recommendation and that Williams intervened when her bosses initiated termination proceedings.

John Cummings, the lobbyist for the Community College of Southern Nevada, said he hired Jones to her $21,000-a-year clerical job in January based on Williams' recommendation. Williams identified Jones as a friend last week but denied he played any role in her employment.

University system Chancellor Jane Nichols has launched an investigation into the employment of Jones.

Regent Steve Sisolak expressed outrage that Jones might have received special treatment.

"We get all kinds of applicants for jobs," he said. "How does she get hired to a job so quickly?"

Ron Remington, president of the Community College of Southern Nevada, defended the hiring of Jones.

"In the case of Ms. Jones, we had an opening and an articulate, bright young African-American woman," he said. "It was position she qualified for."


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