Trial energizes efforts to eliminate controller’s office |

Trial energizes efforts to eliminate controller’s office

Associated Press

Whatever happens to Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine in her ongoing impeachment trial, her statewide elective office may not survive the historic proceedings.

Lawmakers say the spotlight on the controller’s office has renewed interest in combining it with the larger state treasurer’s office in an effort to reduce redundancy and save money. One lawmaker already has submitted a bill draft request to shift the controller’s duties to the treasurer.

While that proposal has failed several times in the past, legislators believe Augustine’s troubles may remind people of the least-recognized constitutional office and leave them wondering whether the state’s financial systems are outdated.

“The problems will give it more steam than it’s had in the past,” said Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas. “I think that it will definitely come up again and perhaps have a higher profile than it’s had in the past.”

Bob Seale, who first proposed the combined office in 1995, when he was treasurer, said that as a newly elected assemblyman, he will champion the measure.

“My reasoning is unchanged from the first proposal,” Seale, R-Henderson, said. “It makes sense. It saves money and it keeps the state’s finances accountable.”

Augustine was impeached by the Assembly for three willful violations of state law. She has admitted she had office employees work on her 2002 campaign, and is now fighting the impeachment before the state Senate.

Seale said the impeachment was no factor in his decision about the two offices, but added it will “rekindle the momentum” behind the idea.

“The proposition has been set back onto the table in a very obvious way,” said Treasurer Brian Krolicki, who supports it. “It’s not an issue that should be decided on personalities, but that’s how it will get renewed interest.”

Augustine argued in 2003 that eliminating the controller’s office would also eliminate an important check and balance. The controller issues the checks to pay state expenses and is involved in debt collection. The treasurer banks and invests the money.

The controller’s office still opposes combining with the treasurer’s office, a stance Augustine held before she was suspended from serving as controller.

If the measure passes the Legislature in 2005, it would have to be passed again in 2007 and be approved by a vote of the people in 2008 in order to take effect.