Denis resigns PUC job for private sector post
Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, has resigned his job as a computer technician at the Public Utilities Commission effective Dec. 28.
The resignation prompted the Nevada Policy Research Institute to claim the move validates its lawsuit against Denis.
NPRI filed suit Nov. 30 challenging Denis’ right to hold both the Senate seat and the PUC job as a violation of the Nevada Constitution’s separation of powers clause, which says no individual can exercise the powers of two branches of government.
But Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Lorne Malkiewich said that has been interpreted to apply to public officers – such as agency directors who make or direct policy – not to all employees. Malkiewich said a computer technician hardly has policymaking powers at PUC.
Joseph Becker, chief legal officer for NPRI, termed Denis’s resignation “a de facto acknowledgment that he recognized that he has been violating the separation of powers clause.”
“They can claim what they want,” said Denis Tuesday.
Denis said it’s no secret he has been looking for another job for some time and that, if he wanted to stay with the PUC, the lawsuit “wouldn’t be something I’d run from.”
“If I thought it was wrong, I wouldn’t have ever run. The first thing I did when I decided to run for office was have legal counsel look at the issue and give me an opinion. Both LCB and the PUC cleared it.”
Denis said he will be director of information technology for a private Southern Nevada construction company “that actually has work right now.”
He said he began looking for a new job about four months ago, “when it became apparent I was going to take on a leadership role (in the Legislature).”
He said he doesn’t have enough flexibility in his hours at the PUC for those added responsibilities.
“Not only did I get a job in the computer industry, it’s kind of a little step up for me,” Denis said.
Among his added duties in the Senate are heading up recruiting and fundraising for the Senate Democratic caucus, which he said is very time-consuming. Denis also is involved in several interim committees, heading the effort to select a new director of the LCB and chairing the committee that reviews agency regulations.
The suit was filed on behalf of William Pojunis of Las Vegas, an unemployed computer technician who said he wanted Denis’ PUC job. But Pojunis admitted he hasn’t actually applied to the PUC.
With Denis’ resignation, Becker said, NPRI is evaluating its legal options in the case.
While NPRI didn’t actually include other state lawmakers who have public jobs, it did list them, saying about 14 members also should leave either their public job or the Legislature.
Malkiewich, however, pointed out that most of those are school district or local government employees. Only Denis is directly a state worker