Complaint: Sheriff violated ethics law

Two men say Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong used the sheriff's building illegally to promote a ballot question, a charge the sheriff disputes.

A complaint was filed with the Nevada Secretary of State on Friday, say John Wagner and Ron Alexander, who wrote the opposing argument for the Nov. 4 ballot question designed by Furlong and Fire Chief Stacey Giomi. The plan would raise property taxes for the fire and sheriff's departments.

Wagner said Furlong clearly violated an ethics law when he hosted on Thursday the first of several scheduled debates on the ballot question between candidates for city offices.

State law under Nevada Revised Statute 281 says politicians or public employees "shall not request or otherwise cause a governmental entity to incur an expense or make an expenditure" supporting a ballot question.

"I hope they tell him to stop doing this and go do it somewhere else," said Wagner, who is also the Independent American Party of Nevada candidate for the District 40 state Assembly seat.

Furlong shouldn't be fined or disciplined, though, he said, just ordered to stop hosting debates at the sheriff's building.

Furlong said the purpose of the events, which include talks from Furlong and Giomi, is to be a community service.

"I think he (Wagner) does not want us to inform the public," he said.

The room in the building where debates are held, the Ormsby Room, was designed as a place to bring in people besides victims and suspects, Furlong said, pointing to a chess tournament, children's sleep-over and other public events that have been held there. Any local group can use the facility without charge by simply making reservations, Furlong said.

But Wagner said Furlong shouldn't promote his politics in a public building.

Besides the debates, there is also a display set up in the lobby with letters supporting the ballot question and books where people can look up how much the tax increase would cost them. No public funds were used for the display, only donations, Furlong said.

Using the sheriff's building is the same as using other public buildings such as the Carson City Community Center, Furlong said, and Wagner is using the complaint to try to keep him quiet about the ballot question.

Matt Griffin, deputy secretary of state for elections, said he hasn't seen the complaint and isn't sure his office is the right place for it since it is about an elected official. A better place would be the Nevada Commission on Ethics, he said.

But Patty Cafferata, executive director of the commission, said she thinks the right place for the complaint is Griffin's office.

She said she isn't allowed to say if the commission is investigating the complaint, but said the intent of the law in question is to stop governments from using public money to buy ads supporting an issue.

- Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

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