Ethics Commission reports on past year’s activity, elects new chair | NevadaAppeal.com

Ethics Commission reports on past year’s activity, elects new chair

Appeal Capitol Bureau

The number of complaints filed with Nevada’s Ethics Commission has risen steadily over the past four years, with fewer and fewer of them deemed “frivolous.”

Ethics Commission Director Stacy Jennings told the commission Wednesday only 26 percent of filed complaints met requirements for investigation in 2003. That rose to 48 percent in 2004 and to 58 percent in fiscal 2005.

At the same time, she told the commission, the percentage of those requests which were for advisory opinions – requests by public officials for guidance on an issue – dropped from 25 percent to just 9 percent.

“The rest of the opinion requests received were ethics complaints,” she said.

The commission dealt with a total of 76 complaints in fiscal 2005, according to Jennings’ annual report.

She said the backlog of cases has increased. This past fiscal year, she reported, none of the investigations before her were completed within the legislatively required 45 days. She said a realistic estimate of the average time before resolving a case is about 120 days.

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She said the delays were made worse during the past year by the time consumed in handling major cases including those against Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and State Controller Kathy Augustine.

But she said she should be able to reduce the backlog significantly with the opening of a Las Vegas office and the hiring of a Southern Nevada investigator approved by the 2005 Legislature.

After accepting the report, the commission voted Wednesday to elect lawyer Caren Jenkins as chairman replacing Rick Hsu, who has served since 2003.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.