Lawmakers could bill Augustine for cost of impeachment | NevadaAppeal.com

Lawmakers could bill Augustine for cost of impeachment

State Controller Kathy Augustine could face costs as high as $15,000 a day during her impeachment by the Legislature.

Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Lorne Malkiewich said legal researchers have concluded Augustine could be charged for all costs incurred by the bureau, except the actual salaries of lawmakers hearing and ruling on her case.

“She could be subject to an order that she reimburse the state for all costs, except for salaries,” he said.

Minus salaries, he said it could cost as much as $15,000 a day for a special session to consider whether Augustine should be impeached for ethical violations, including using her staff and office’s equipment and facilities in her re-election campaign two years ago.

Augustine has already admitted to those violations in a stipulation before the Nevada Commission on Ethics and agreed to pay a fine of $15,000.

As part of that stipulation, the Ethics Commission was required to forward a report on Augustine’s case and her admissions to the Legislature. She is the first constitutional officer in Nevada history to face impeachment.

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But if lawmakers decide to hit her for costs during a special session, Malkiewich said, the price tag could get large quickly, if the Assembly returns a number of charges in articles of impeachment.

Malkiewich said he asked the legal division to look into the issue after numerous questions were raised, including by lawmakers, about the potential cost of a special session.

“Legally, it’s akin to a disciplinary proceeding, although a unique disciplinary proceeding,” he said. “And in disciplinary proceedings, it’s not at all uncommon to assess costs.”

He said he will recommend that lawmakers take up the issue of whether Augustine should be assessed costs if she is impeached and, if so, what costs she should bear.

Gov. Kenny Guinn is expected to call the Legislature into special session to consider impeachment of Augustine on Nov. 10. Guinn has said he wants to handle the issue in special session so it is completed before the 2005 session and doesn’t interfere with the issues before the state then.

Augustine has vowed to fight the impeachment and try to keep her job.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at nevadaappeal@sbcglobal.net or 687-8750.