Loux ethics hearing set for Wednesday | NevadaAppeal.com

Loux ethics hearing set for Wednesday

The Ethics Commission will hold a hearing Wednesday on charges that Nuclear Projects Office Director Bob Loux illegally raised his own salary.

The meeting, however, is closed to the public and, under state law, commission director Patty Cafferata can’t even confirm that there is a complaint against Loux.

The complaint was filed by Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert after Gov. Jim Gibbons issued a letter demanding Loux resign because he had raised his own salary and the salaries of his staff beyond legislatively authorized maximums. The practice had apparently gone on since 2005 and, as of this fiscal year, Loux was paying himself at a rate of $151,542 ” $37,454 more than his authorized salary of $114,088.

Over that period, he and others in the Nuclear Projects Office had received $195,790 more in salary than they were entitled to.

The salaries for this year have since been rolled back, and the state is moving to collect the overpayments from previous years.

While the Nuclear Projects Commission has decided to terminate Loux, he remains on the job until a replacement is hired. The commission did that because, after some 20 years of battling, the federal government is moving forward this year with its attempt to license and open the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump in southern Nevada.

Loux has managed the state’s battle to block Yucca Mountain since his position was created in the early 1980s.

The Wednesday hearing in the Legislature building will determine whether Loux committed an ethical violation in changing his and the other salaries in his office without authorization. In addition to any witnesses he and his lawyer wish to call, the commission is expected to call members of the nuclear commission including chairman, former Senator and Governor Richard Bryan as well as representatives from the governor’s office who will spell out what they claim Loux did.

The overpayments were revealed at an Interim Finance Committee meeting when lawmakers asked why Loux’s agency had overspent its salary category. Analysts said the agency had apparently taken the salary money appropriated for a vacant position and divided it up among the remaining staff.

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