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Augustine defends travel

Controller Kathy Augustine is challenging claims that eight round trips she made between Carson City and Las Vegas were not justified as state business.

The issue was raised during the 2001 Legislature when Ways and Means Vice Chairwoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, said auditors had questioned whether Augustine was traveling to political and social events on state funds.

Giunchigliani requested a letter of intent from the money committees making it clear travel on state money was to be documented and justified.

That letter was issued earlier this month signed by both Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, and Senate Finance Chairman Bill Raggio, R-Reno.

“They were all business-related, but we probably didn’t do a sufficient enough job to document that,” Augustine said Thursday.

She pointed out all eight trips in question, costing less than $200 each, were in the first six months of her term. She said six involved business for the controller’s office, including interviewing candidates for her top assistant.

The other two, she said, were trips to participate on the state Board of Transportation, of which she, the attorney general and governor are members.

“Two of those were NDOT trips which, unbeknownst to me, I could have billed to NDOT,” she said.

“There was a concern that some travel may have been incurred in the past based on invitations to attend a function that may not be related to, or that specifically benefits, the operation of the state Controller’s Office,” the legislative letter says.

It specifically requested any future travel by Augustine be completely and properly documented to show it involves state business.

“The whole issue revolved around documentation,” Augustine said, adding that, since the audit a year ago, she has been providing complete documentation for all trips by her or other members of her staff.

She questioned why the issue was raised, pointing out that when she travels to Las Vegas, the state saves money compared to some other officials.

“I’m entitled to per diem, overnight and mileage and I don’t collect any of that,” she said adding that she uses her own vehicle and stays in her own Las Vegas home.

She pointed out that, when she wants to travel for personal reasons, she gets a better deal than the state using her Delta Airlines discount as a former airline employee.

She admitted there are some political and social events on her agenda when she goes to Las Vegas but said the trips are based around controller’s office business and therefore justified.