No date yet for Augustine’s impeachment
Gov. Kenny Guinn delayed an expected decision Monday on a special legislative session starting this week to consider impeaching embattled Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine.
Guinn spokesman Greg Bortolin said an announcement would be made today, adding that the governor has been meeting with legislative leaders to determine when to start the impeachment proceedings – which would be a first for any public official in Nevada history.
“He just wants to make sure everyone in the starting blocks and ready to go before he pulls the trigger,” Bortolin said. Wednesday remains the likely day the session will start.
Augustine admitted to violations of state ethics laws and was fined $15,000 for using office staffers and equipment for her 2002 re-election campaign. If impeached by the Assembly and convicted by the Senate, the two-term Republican controller could be removed from office.
A lengthy letter Sunday to legislative leaders from Augustine’s attorneys raised various legal and constitutional concerns about the impeachment process but wasn’t a factor in the overnight announcement delay, Bortolin said.
In the 12-page letter, Augustine lawyers Dominic Gentile of Las Vegas and John Arrascada of Reno said they had concerns about Attorney General Brian Sandoval being involved in the impeachment process – even though there’s a legal requirement for his participation.
The attorneys said “a disinterested special prosecutor” is needed because Sandoval’s office and several of his deputies “have both institutional and individual serious conflicts of interests in this matter.”
Gentile and Arrascada said Sandoval’s office, which started the case against Augustine, has shown bias and overstepped its authority in supplying materials gathered during a criminal investigation to the state Ethics Commission, which fined Augustine and sent her case to the Legislature.
The lawyers also said a deputy attorney general who was supposed to represent Augustine actually advised her to not remain silent when facing questions from Sandoval’s investigators looking into her 2002 campaign activities.
Augustine has admitted she should have known the employees were doing the campaign work during state office hours, but claims she told them to work in their free time. She contends that none of the violations to which she has admitted affected the proper management of her office.
Augustine rejected requests by Guinn, U.S. Sen. John Ensign and other Republican leaders to quit rather than face the impeachment.
Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said costs of a special session could reach $200,000, piling up at as much as $15,000 a day. Malkiewich said the costs don’t include the $130-a-day salaries that legislators will be paid for participating in the special session.