The battle over whether the Hatch Act should bar Nevada Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, from legislative service is headed for a federal hearing.
The Justice Department's Office of Special Counsel filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board on June 16, accusing Perkins of violating the Hatch Act by filing as a candidate for elective office while he is also deputy police chief in Henderson.
The Hatch Act prohibits state and local employees who have duties involving federally funded programs from engaging in partisan politics. The complaint says because Perkins' job involves grants issued by the Department of Justice, Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security, he is restricted by the federal law.
Perkins described the move as "politically motivated." He said he and the city have been discussing his job description and responsibilities with the special counsel's office.
"I thought we were still in the investigatory stage," he said. "Then they just, out of the blue, filed the complaint."
The special counsel's announcement states Perkins was told in 2002 he was covered by the act, and that future actions could result in disciplinary charges.
"Despite OSC's warning, Perkins filed for re-election on May 5, 2004, and is currently the Democratic candidate for the Nevada Assembly District 23," according to the special counsel's statement.
The penalty would be for Perkins to lose his job for at least 18 months, or the Henderson Police Department forfeit federal funds equal to two years of his salary - which would total about $250,000.
Perkins said he and city officials discussed the issue with the special counsel's office last year and made some changes to ensure they were in compliance.
"The first complaint was filed against me many, many years ago, and we put a compliance program in place," he said. "We worked with them last year and, although we believed their concerns were misplaced, we made some changes to comply."
He said he is confident that, when the issue goes before the Merit Systems Protection Board, he will be cleared of any wrongdoing. He said the amount of federal money he has any control over is "de minimus," and that past case law involving the Hatch Act will support his position.
He said he still resents the political tone of the decision.
"It's a sad day when Washington does not understand the benefits of a citizen legislature here in Nevada," he said.
Contact Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.