State appeals officer upholds Potts’ firing | NevadaAppeal.com

State appeals officer upholds Potts’ firing

Randy Potts convinced a jury to acquit him on criminal charges stemming from a trip to a nonexistent conference on cyber-security in Colorado. But he wasn’t as successful with the state’s hearing officer.

Potts was head of security for the Nevada Department of Information Technology when he sought reimbursement for expenses for attending a November 2005 homeland security conference in Denver. The problem was, there was no such conference on the dates he was in Colorado.

His memo justifying the trip afterward made no mention of the conference used to justify the expenditures beforehand.

Then DOIT Director Terry Savage fired him and the attorney general’s office filed theft and embezzlement charges against him. He was acquitted of criminal charges in May after a three-day trial in Carson District Court. Jurors told prosecutors after the verdict they agreed what Potts did was wrong but couldn’t find beyond a reasonable doubt he did it with criminal intent.

Potts appealed his termination arguing the violations he committed weren’t serious enough to justify termination and that a lesser punishment should have been ordered. He also argued he was initially reprimanded verbally and in writing, which makes his later termination an “administrative double jeopardy.”

DOIT officials said the reprimand was issued before later facts surfaced justifying termination and that because of his conduct, it was impossible for him to remain as chief of security. They also pointed out there is no administrative double jeopardy in Nevada.

Administrative Hearing Officer Bill Kockenmeister stated in his decision the evidence is clear Potts justified the trip in the first place by stating he was attending the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center annual meeting in Denver, Nov. 29-Dec. 2 2005, when that meeting actually occurred in April 2005. He said Potts “knowingly and willingly submitted the false information regarding the annual meeting in Denver.”

The decision states Potts also admitted changing the dates of the meeting and that he willfully falsified his work report and reimbursement claim after returning from the trip.

Kockenmeister ruled Potts’ termination was justified “for the good of the public service,” especially given his high position as chief of security in DOIT.

Potts has 30 days to file an appeal in Carson District Court if he wants to pursue the case.

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