Nevada controller may admit wrongdoing at ethics hearing | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada controller may admit wrongdoing at ethics hearing

BRENDAN RILEY

A negotiated settlement – including a formal admission of wrongdoing – could cut short a scheduled daylong Nevada Ethics Commission hearing today into accusations against state Controller Kathy Augustine that could get her booted out of office.

The commission’s agenda, to discuss claims that Augustine used her office staff for political work, was amended to provide for a closed discussion about a possible settlement.

Augustine has refused comment on the matter and referred questions to her attorney, John Arrascada of Reno.

Arrascada said Tuesday he couldn’t comment in advance of the hearing due to confidentiality rules set by the Ethics Commission.

Stacy Jennings, executive director of the commission, said Tuesday that the agenda was changed to allow for the closed discussion at the start of today’s hearing – if that’s what Augustine wants.

The commission’s practice has been to use the closed process to accept an admission of wrongdoing and thereby avoid the need for a long hearing where witnesses would testify. However, the admission would still be discussed in public following the private meeting.

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Fifteen witnesses are scheduled to testify at Augustine’s hearing, and the commission reserved a room for the open hearing until 9 p.m. today.

If Augustine formally admits to a willful violation of state ethics laws, the witnesses would be excused and her admission would result in the case being forwarded to the Nevada Legislature which could impeach her.

A 2-member panel of the commission on Sept. 3 accepted a report from Jennings that said there’s sufficient cause for the full panel to hear the allegations that Augustine made her office staffers do campaign work for her. She’s also accused by a former employee of sexual harassment, but that’s a separate matter now pending in a federal court.