Governor, AG back Nevada law changes prompted by impeachment | NevadaAppeal.com

Governor, AG back Nevada law changes prompted by impeachment

BRENDAN RILEY

Nevada’s governor and attorney general said Tuesday they back legislation to block officials from making state-paid employees work on their campaign finance reports – a practice that upset few senators when it came up during Controller Kathy Augustine’s impeachment trial.

Gov. Kenny Guinn and Attorney General Brian Sandoval said they wouldn’t ask their own state staffers to work on the campaign reports. Guinn added he was surprised that a Legislative Counsel Bureau legal opinion that emerged during Augustine’s trial stated such work would be acceptable.

The top Republicans’ statements align them with Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, who said Monday that she’s proposing legislation to make clear that an incumbent candidate who has a state staffer fill out a campaign finance report is violating the law.

The LCB opinion that surfaced in the middle of Augustine’s trial undercut a key part of the case against the controller – whose former chief deputy rejected her request to complete her finance report and said the campaign work cut into office productivity.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have any of my employees do anything on my behalf for campaign purposes,” Sandoval said.

Guinn echoed Sandoval’s remarks in support of the proposed legislation, adding “If someone doesn’t introduce it, I will.”

The governor also said he favors a second proposal to ensure state workers that a proper investigation will be conducted when they blow the whistle on errant bosses – and to ensure them that they’ll be protected from reprisals.

Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, already has requested a bill draft aimed at getting the state Personnel Department to follow up on employees’ complaints.

Guinn also said he favors a fine-tuning of the impeachment procedures that were developed and used for the first time in state history for Augustine’s trial that ended Saturday with her conviction on one count of misusing state equipment in her 2002 re-election campaign.

“Probably what’s most important here is to look at what’s not clear and make it clear to people,’ Guinn said. Whatever changes are made, the governor added, “I know it shouldn’t become more liberal.”

Sandoval also rejected a claim by Augustine’s defense lawyers that his office was looking for a big target to improve its image, saying, “That is just spin” and the suggestion was “categorically wrong.”

Sandoval, who wasn’t present at Augustine’s impeachment trial, also said his being there wouldn’t have improved the special prosecutor’s case. He said Gerald Gardner, his chief deputy of special prosecutions and public integrity, was the proper person to answer lawmakers’ questions.

“He was the one who had the most personal knowledge” about the case, Sandoval said.

Guinn said he didn’t move too quickly in urging Augustine to resign prior to her impeachment trial, saying, “I certainly didn’t jump the gun.”

The governor said Augustine already had admitted to three willful violations of state ethics laws and had been fined $15,000 by the state Ethics Commission when he and numerous other officials suggested Augustine step down.

Instead, Augustine went ahead with the trial. While convicted on one count, she won a dismissal of two other counts and wound up with a censure from the Senate. She returned to her $80,000-a-year job on Monday.