Last minute deal halts governor’s divorce trial
RENO – After 18 months of insults and accusations, the divorce trial of Gov. Jim Gibbons and his wife Dawn was just 30 minutes away Monday when the couple and their lawyers disappeared behind the closed doors of Judge Frances Doherty’s chambers.
An hour later, they emerged with a complicated deal dividing up their more than $1 million in property, bank accounts and other assets.
“It’s over and finished and I’m happy it’s over,” said Gibbons as he exited the courtroom.
“I wish him the very best,” Dawn Gibbons said.
Asked whether she would still continue her duties as first lady, which she has throughout the divorce process, Dawn Gibbons said, “I’m a private citizen as soon as that divorce decree is signed.”
She also said she would move out of the cottage adjacent to the governor’s mansion “as soon as possible.”
In the deal, both sides gave a bit from their original demands. Gibbons will keep the bulk of his military, congressional, state and Delta Airlines pensions. In trade, he has to pay Dawn Gibbons half the value of the couple’s 40 acres outside Lamoille in Elko County either by selling the land or by taking a loan if he wants to keep it.
In either case, the divorce decree won’t be finalized until he makes that payment – $265,000 – within 60 days.
In addition, the house on Kinney Lane in Reno will be sold and the proceeds split between them.
Gibbons originally proposed he take the Lamoille property and she keep the Reno house. She wanted to sell both and split the proceeds.
Originally, Dawn Gibbons wanted half of the governor’s pension plans. Instead, she will receive $1,474 a month from those pensions. For the next five years, she will also get 20 percent of his total gross income as alimony. He estimated his pre-tax income at $16,700 a month.
The lengthy and complicated deal also provides for division of the couple’s property accumulated over 23 years of marriage, including retirement accounts, vehicles and furniture.
Gibbons will keep his guitar collection and his hunting rifles. She will take the couple’s art collection. They each get one of their Model T Fords and their son gets his bedroom furniture and the piano his grandmother gave him.
Both were asked whether they participated fully and understood the deal, as well as whether they “believe it to be fair and equitable.” There was a full five second pause before Gibbons answered that question in the affirmative.
Most of the deal was hammered out in a marathon session Sunday that ended at 3 a.m. Gibbons snapped at one reporter who asked a question as he left, then explained that “I’m working off two seconds of sleep.”
The finishing touches were put together Monday morning as both sides considered what details might be revealed in a trial. Further complicating the situation for the governor is the potential damage testimony during a trial could do to his re-election chances. His performance ratings have improved since summer but are still an abysmal 19 percent.
Dawn Gibbons has repeatedly said she was completely surprised when he filed for divorce in May 2008. She was out of town at the time.
She stood beside him in the closing days of his 2006 campaign as he denied making a crude pass at a Las Vegas cocktail waitress in a parking garage. That woman, Chrissy Mazzeo, has since filed suit over the incident.
As part of the divorce deal, Gibbons agreed to absolve Dawn Gibbons of any potential costs should he lose and end up paying Mazzeo.
Dawn Gibbons’ lawyers have accused Gibbons of affairs with at least two Reno women. He has denied the allegations, describing their relationships as “good friends.” He sent one of those women more than 800 personal text messages over a period of several weeks in 2007 before the divorce action was filed. He apologized when those texts were revealed but denied they were love notes to the woman.
The deal also provides funding up front to cover health care for Dawn Gibbons and their son Jimmy until he enters the military next August.