Augustine resignation called for
If Kathy Augustine refuses to resign as state controller, Gov. Kenny Guinn said this morning he’ll call a special legislative session to vote on impeaching her.
Augustine admitted last week to three willful violations of state ethics laws for using her office staff, equipment and facilities in her 2002 re-election campaign. Evidence indicates her executive secretary spent upward of 25 percent of her time on campaign work.
The Ethics Commission imposed a total of $15,000 in fines and forwarded the report to the Nevada Legislature for possible impeachment.
Several other officials, many of them fellow Republicans, have since called on Augustine to resign. But since the Legislature isn’t in session, Guinn is the only one who can actually bring the issue to a conclusion before the 2005 Legislature opens Feb. 7.
“It is my responsibility to call on the state controller to resign immediately,” he said. “This matter cannot linger until the start of the legislative session. If the state controller does not resign, I am prepared to call a special session of the Nevada Legislature for the second week of November.”
He said because Augustine admitted to willful violations of the ethics law, he has no choice but to ask for her resignation. He said he does not want the issue left hanging until next year because it could take valuable time and attention from the important business facing the Legislature – including fixing problems with the tax package approved two years ago and considering water issues and other important state business.
Augustine said after the ethics commission hearing, and repeated as recently as Tuesday, that she doesn’t intend to resign. Her lawyer, John Arrascada of Reno, said Thursday he would have no comment until he went over the governor’s statement with Augustine.
Guinn said after last week’s ruling by the Ethics Commission he wanted Augustine to have a few days to think things through then sit down to talk with her Wednesday.
“We did not have that meeting because I was informed I could not meet with her without her attorneys,” said Guinn. “This was not a legalistic meeting. It was a humanistic process.”
He said her refusal to talk it over with him privately didn’t change his commitment to announce his position Thursday – the deadline of which he advised the press a week ago.
Guinn said if Augustine doesn’t resign by November, he will call lawmakers to Carson City to consider whether Augustine should be removed from office. And he said despite the cost of a special session – at least $15,000 a day – he believes the people of Nevada will support it.
If he does call lawmakers to consider Augustine’s case, the Assembly would decide by majority vote whether to impeach her – essentially the same as when the grand jury issues an indictment. If impeached, the state Senate would try Augustine on charges contained in the articles of impeachment and, if two thirds of the 21 members agreed, convict her. Conviction would remove her from office immediately.
Also still hanging is the question whether the Nevada Attorney General’s Office will file criminal charges. Augustine’s stipulation to charges filed by the Ethics Commission was an admission of civil violations. Attorney General Brian Sandoval’s office is still investigating whether allegations against her constitute felony violations. Like impeachment, a criminal conviction would also bar her from holding future public office in Nevada.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.