Assembly set to begin Augustine impeachment | NevadaAppeal.com

Assembly set to begin Augustine impeachment

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine refused to talk publicly Tuesday as lawmakers prepared to convene a special session to impeach her. Augustine says it's business as usual in her office.

The Nevada Legislature convenes today to decide whether Kathy Augustine should be removed from office as state controller.

She is the first constitutional officer in Nevada history to face impeachment after admitting to three willful violations of state ethics laws in using her staff and office in her 2002 re-election campaign.

Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Lorne Malkiewich said the Assembly will begin the process, convening as a committee of the whole to consider impeachment. A constitutional majority, 22 of 42 members, is needed to approve articles of impeachment – the legal equivalent of a grand jury indictment.

If that occurs, Augustine will be tried by the Senate. A two-thirds vote – 14 of 21 members – is necessary to remove her from office.

In that case, Gov. Kenny Guinn will name a replacement – with the “advice and consent” of the Senate – to serve until the next general election.

Guinn issued a formal proclamation Tuesday calling the Legislature into special session at 10 a.m. today “to consider all matters relating to the impeachment proceedings concerning State Controller Kathy Augustine.”

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He waited until the last minute as he and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, tried to negotiate a solution – keyed on her resignation.

Guinn along with other fellow Republicans have called for Augustine to resign – with Guinn reportedly even volunteering to stand beside her to make the decision look more noble than forced.

She has refused, saying she will fight the charges to the end and making it clear she believes herself the victim of a vendetta. She decided not to back down even though lawmakers could hit her for a large portion of the special session’s cost.

Malkiewich said the appropriation to pay for the special session will be $250,000.

Once members of the Senate and Assembly are sworn in by the chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court and the appropriation approved, the Senate will adjourn while the Assembly forms into a committee of the whole.

There had been speculation the Attorney General would prosecute the case. Malkiewich said there will be no prosecutor. Instead, the committee will handle the case much as it does regular legislative business and call its own witnesses.

Among the first witnesses expected is Stacie Jennings, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics. She will present the commission report and Augustine’s stipulation admitting three willful violations including having her executive assistant Jennifer Normington work on her campaign.

If the Assembly votes for impeachment, plans are to adjourn for 10 days to give Augustine’s defense attorneys time to prepare for trial by the Senate.

Malkiewich said because the Senate has some time, members are deciding exactly how the trial will be conducted.

How long the process will take depends on how much latitude the Senate decides to give Augustine’s defense.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at nevadaappeal@sbcglobal.net or at 687-8750.

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