Gibbons: Wife’s lawyer trying to embarrass him | NevadaAppeal.com

Gibbons: Wife’s lawyer trying to embarrass him

SCOTT SONNER
Associated Press Writer

RENO ” Gov. Jim Gibbons wants a federal judge to strike references to his pending divorce in a lawsuit filed by a former state worker seeking reinstatement to her job, saying the “scandalous” references are irrelevant and were included solely to harass and embarrass him.

State lawyers representing Gibbons in the lawsuit against the governor and his budget director Andrew Clinger filed the motion on Friday in the case brought by Mary Keating, who lost her job as administrative services officer in mid-May.

Keating claims she was fired because the governor thought she leaked details about his private text-messaging on a state phone. She is suing Gibbons and Clinger for unspecified damages and reinstatement to the post where she oversaw, among other things, the governor’s office expenditures.

“This is a garden variety government employee unlawful employment case,” Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Senior Deputy Attorney General Stephen Quinn wrote in the new motion filed in U.S. District Court in Reno.

They said Gibbons was named as a defendant in the case based solely on a statement first lady Dawn Gibbons made to Reno lawyer Cal Dunlap. Dunlap is representing Keating as well as Dawn Gibbons in what the state lawyers described as “her very contentious and contested divorce action against the governor.”

The 21 lines they want deleted from Keating’s complaint include references to the governor’s repeated denial of any involvement with other women, claiming the couple had “merely grown apart.”

They also included allegations there had been “persistent rumors and discussion” among the public and the media of Gibbons’ “involvement with women other than his wife Dawn, one of who was later identified as … a local doctor’s wife.”

The lawsuit alleges one of Keating’s employees told her in May 2007 that Gibbons used his state cell phone to send more than 860 personal text messages over several weeks to that woman, whom the governor has described as a longtime friend. Keating in turn told her boss, Clinger.

When word of the text-messaging got out last June, the Republican governor apologized for the activity and said he had reimbursed the state $130. He also denied the messages were “love notes.”

Masto, a Democrat, and Quinn said in the new motion that the lawsuit’s references to the divorce are “immaterial, impertinent and scandalous.”

They were included “solely for the improper and bad faith purposes of harassing and embarrassing the governor,” the motion said.

Dunlap said Wednesday he had not reviewed the new motion and had no immediate comment.

Keating wound up with another state job, with similar pay.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Valerie Cook ruled on Jan. 28 that Gibbons must appear at a future preliminary settlement conference with Keating, Clinger and their lawyers.

The judge instructed the two sides to agree on a date for the conference but as of Wednesday there had been no agreement and a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said they intend to ask the judge to reconsider her ruling.

Quinn had argued that it was not necessary for Gibbons or Clinger to appear in person at the settlement hearing. He said the two were very busy dealing with the state’s budget crisis and the 2009 Legislative session that began Monday. He said their legal counsel would have the full authority to negotiate any possible settlement so their presence in court was not necessary.

But Dunlap said it was important they be present to fully understand their potential liability in the case and pointed out they’d already presented the governor’s proposed budget to the state Legislature.

“As we know, (Gibbons) has a great deal of skill texting messages, which he can do from here to deal with other government issues,” Dunlap told the judge last week.

Edie Cartwright, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said Wednesday the “routine practice” of the court is to excuse government officials from personally appearing at a settlement hearing where a representative with full authority attends.

“The governor and Mr. Clinger request to be treated the same,” she said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.