AG: State faces $250,000 in lawyer costs
Appeal Capitol Bureau
Nevada is facing up to $250,000 in unexpected and uncollectible attorney costs from state boards and commissions, Attorney General Brian Sandoval advised the other two members of the Board of Examiners on Tuesday.
He made the comments as he asked the board to write off $61,566 owed to his office for legal services to the Homeopathic Examiners Board and Nursing Board.
Expenses for those and other small boards in the state were “capped” under contracts signed with the attorney general’s office in the past.
“Legal time that was spent turned out to exceed that cap,” he said Tuesday.
Sandoval advised Gov. Kenny Guinn and Secretary of State Dean Heller there’s no way to really collect the money since those boards don’t have it.
And Sandoval said there will be more uncollectibles in the future.
“There are several boards out there who do not have the ability to pay,” he said. “And some were holding back disciplinary issues because they don’t have the ability to pay.”
He said he has advised a number of boards to send in those disciplinary cases whether or not they have the budget to cover legal costs because the issues have to be dealt with. He said his office will have to absorb the cost of defending those cases even though it won’t be reimbursed for the legal work. And he said he expects the cost to total $250,000 or more since his office has just assumed responsibility for more than 100 different disciplinary cases they won’t be reimbursed for.
The attorney general’s office funds its operations by charging different agencies for legal work much like a private law firm. That “cost allocation” process is mandated by federal law but results in deficits, at least on paper, by some small agencies and boards.
“We’re going to do the work,” Sandoval said, “but it’s going to be a fiscal issue.”
“The industries want these boards,” he said. “They want their independence but then they come with these writeoffs. There should be some kind of legislation out there that says they should be self-sufficient – that the fees should cover the cost of legal fees.”
Heller said if some of those boards and commissions represent professional groups so small they can’t cover their costs, maybe they shouldn’t exist as independent regulatory bodies.