Assemblyman OK’d to run for, hold office
The federal Justice Department has ruled Assemblyman Ron Knecht, R-Carson City, isn’t in violation of the federal Hatch Act in running for and holding office as a Nevada Assembly member.
The Hatch Act prohibits government officials at state and local as well as federal levels who have administrative control over federal funding from holding elective office. Knecht and several other members of the Legislature who also work for public agencies have asked whether they are barred from elective office.
Knecht, an economist for the Public Utility Commission, received his letter from the Office of the Special Counsel on Monday saying his position doesn’t violate the Hatch Act. According to the letter, the only federal funding the PUC receives is through federal Gas Pipeline Safety and Damage Prevention grants, which are used to enforce federal pipeline safety codes.
Knecht’s position is not connected with that program and his position is fully funded through an assessment on public utilities.
“As such we have determined that you do not have duties in connection with a federally funded activity and were not covered by the Hatch Act during your campaign,” the letter states.
Knecht said that matches the legal opinion he requested from the PUC’s counsel before running for Assembly District 40 in 2002 but, nonetheless, takes a load off his mind.
“I didn’t really have any doubt about it, but it’s good to get confirmation,” he said. “It was apparent to everyone federal funds don’t touch my job.”
“It’s one less thing to clutter up the landscape and keep us from getting to the serious issues of the campaign,” he said referring to his re-election campaign against former District 40 Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, a Democrat.
The most prominent legislator awaiting a ruling on whether the Hatch Act affects his candidacy is Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson. He said Tuesday he has not yet received a letter from the Special Counsel’s office but Knecht’s letter is a good sign his case may also soon be resolved.
Perkins is deputy chief of police in Henderson and the Henderson police department receives a significant amount of federal funding. He has said he and his department have taken pains to ensure his authority doesn’t cover management of federal funds.
Contact Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or at 687-8750.