Ethics case proceeds against Washoe top prosecutor |

Ethics case proceeds against Washoe top prosecutor

(AP) – A state panel has found enough evidence to pursue ethics violations against Washoe County Dis-trict Attorney Dick Gammick, a state official said Friday.

An investigatory panel said a hearing before the full Nevada Commission on Ethics will be held to determine if the longtime district attorney violated ethics laws in his re-election campaign. It dismissed other allegations of improper use of staff, saying they volunteered on their own time to help Gammick’s campaign.

Gammick was accused of personal use of his county-owned vehicle and office equipment to benefit his campaign. According to an ethics report, he admitted using his county vehicle but denied its use was improper because he is on call “24/7.”

In all, the panel forwarded four issues for the commission to determine, all focusing on whether he improperly used government resources or his position as an incumbent to pursue his own interests.

“Those questions need to be answered at the hearing,” said Caren Jenkins, executive director of the ethics commission.

Ethics complaints are not made public until an investigation is conducted and a sub-panel determines there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a full hearing. It could lead to a potential court hearing and removal from office if at least three willful violations are found.

Gammick said he’s been “very candid” during the investigation “and we’re going to in with that attitude.”

“I have never been through this process before. We’ll go to the hearing, and we’ll present what we have to present,” he said.

If three willful violations are found, the commission “would be required to send the question to court for consideration of whether he should be removed from office for malfeasance,” Jenkins said.

The violations against Gammick carry possible fines of up to $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000 for a first, second and third offense, respectively.

Gammick, who was first elected in 1994, faced his first opponent, Roger Whomes, in this year’s election. Gammick won re-elected to a fifth term.

The ethics probe focuses on two events – a Sept. 17 football game and Aug. 30 appearance at a forum sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Gammick drove his county vehicle, equipped with an emergency lighting system, to a tailgate party at a University of Nevada, Reno football game. The ethics report said the vehicle was packed with campaign signs and literature, and a table behind it also had campaign material.

Gammick told the AP he had just left a murder scene in Sparks when he went to the game.

For the Aug. 30 event, the ethics investigator said that a videotape of the presentation, made Sharon Spangler, a supporter of Gammick’s opponent, showed Gammick asking for the audience support.

The ethics report said that most of his talk focused on the functions of the district attorney’s office, Gammick turned to politics toward the end.

“I’m going to ask you for your vote before we get out of here,” Gammick said. “I’m going to ask you a couple of times before we get out of here tonight.”

The ethics investigator concluded, “Whether the event was advertised as a campaign event or not, it certainly resembled one in many ways.”

The last time an ethics complaint escalated to the point of malfeasance was in 2004 when former state Controller Kathy Augustine admitted to three willful violations for having members of her staff work on her 2002 re-election campaign while on state time. She was impeached by the Nevada Assembly, convicted of one count by the Senate, and fined $15,000 by the ethics commission.

Augustine was killed in July 2006. Her husband, a critical care nurse, was convicted of her murder.