Gov. Jim Gibbons has been sued by a government staffer who claims she was forced from her job because he thought she leaked information about his use of a state cell phone to send hundreds of text messages to a woman he described as a longtime friend.
The lawsuit, which also names state budget chief Andrew Clinger, was filed by attorney Cal Dunlap on behalf of Mary Keating, a longtime state worker who in mid-May lost her job as administrative services officer overseeing, among other things, Gibbons' office expenditures.
Dunlap, who also represents first lady Dawn Gibbons in a pending divorce action filed by the governor, said that in Keating's case Gibbons believed "she had leaked information to the press" and wanted his own "untrained and unqualified" staffers overseeing his office finances.
The Washoe County District Court lawsuit, alleging violations of Keating's rights and seeking unspecified damages, says one of her employees told her in May 2007 that Gibbons used his state cell phone to send more than 860 personal text messages over several weeks. She in turn told her boss, Clinger.
When word of the text-messaging got out in June, Gibbons apologized for the activity and said he had reimbursed the state $130. He also denied the messages were "love notes" to the estranged wife of a Reno doctor.
Gibbons spokesman Ben Kieckhefer said there was no basis for Keating's lawsuit. He said she's now working in the state Department of Health and Human Services, in a job with similar pay and with better protections against an abrupt dismissal.
In her previous job, Kieckhefer said Keating was subject to dismissal "at the pleasure" of the budget chief, and in moving to another area of state government "she never lost an hour's worth of pay or benefits. She never lost anything."
In the lawsuit, Dunlap stated that Keating had no idea why she was ordered by Clinger to clean out her desk in May. He also said her conduct in telling Clinger about the cell-phone texting by Gibbons "was consistent with good accounting and auditing practices and procedures."
The lawsuit also says that Keating's career and reputation has been damaged, she must now work on matters unfamiliar to her, and is seen by others as being punished for tattling on the governor or "for some unknown wrongdoing."
The suit also alleges that the budget office firing has chilled the constitutional rights of Keating and all other state workers "to bring matters of public concern to the public's attention."
Keating's lawsuit, filed Thursday, was the second in one week naming the governor. On Tuesday, Chrissy Mazzeo, a former Las Vegas cocktail waitress, filed a federal court lawsuit accusing Gibbons of making unwanted sexual advances and threatening to rape her in October 2006. Gibbons has denied the allegations.