Charge against nuclear projects director is dismissed

An attempt by political activist Chuck Muth to force Nuclear Projects Director Bob Loux out of that position was dismissed Wednesday by Carson District Judge Bill Maddox in a hearing that lasted about five minutes.

The statute allows anyone to file in district court demanding removal of a public official for malfeasance in office. Maddox said it doesn't apply to Loux's case.

He cited a long-standing Nevada Supreme Court case that says that statute is pre-empted by the Nevada Constitution because the constitution gives exclusive power to the Legislature to remove state officials, elected or appointed, through the impeachment process.

"It makes it very clear this statute does not apply to state officials," said Maddox. "This statute only applies to district, township and municipal officers. I don't think I have the jurisdiction to hear this."

He made the statement after Judy Sheldrew, attorney for Loux, said she was asking for the complaint to be dismissed.

The complaint was filed after Loux disclosed during last week's Interim Finance Committee that his office was over budget because he had given unauthorized raises to himself and five employees in the Nuclear Projects Office.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has asked for his resignation as well, but Loux has refused, saying he will not make a decision until after talking to the Nuclear Projects Commission. Although he was appointed by the governor's office, Loux serves at the pleasure of the commission.

That body is scheduled to meet Sept. 23.

Maddox advised Muth that, "the only way he can be removed, I imagine, is by the (Nuclear Projects) commission itself or through the ethics commission."

"The process available to Mr. Muth is to convince your assemblyman to file articles of impeachment."

Muth said outside the court that Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert of Reno has already filed an ethics complaint against Loux.

"Bob Loux got off today on a technicality, but I still think he needs to resign from his office," said Muth. "He needs to understand he is now a detriment to the state's fight."

Sheldrew said with this issue disposed of, they will now move to prepare a response to the ethics complaint, which must be submitted within 10 days.

"One day at a time," she said.

Loux has served as head of Nevada's efforts to block the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump project since 1978. Some opponents of that project have expressed concern over potentially losing his knowledge about the project as the licensing hearings are about to begin.

- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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