Institute defends challenge to public employees' right to serve in Legislature


CARSON CITY -- The face of a conservative Las Vegas think tank's lawsuit challenging the right of public employees to serve in the Legislature is a former Republican operative who in published reports has called President Barack Obama "corrupt" and his administration "Marxist."

Despite such statements by William Pojunis, the Clark County Republican Party's former communications director, Nevada Policy Research Institute spokesman Victor Joecks said Thursday that the lawsuit is not a political move designed to punish Democrats in the Legislature. Pojunis now is communications director for the Nevada Libertarian Party.

"This is a constitutional issue," Joecks said. "We don't go to our clients and ask their philosophical positions. It is a constitutional issue, and that is what the court will rule on."

The institute and Pojunis filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Carson City District Court in which they contend that the Nevada Constitution's separation of powers clause blocks state Sen. Mo Denis, the likely Democratic leader of the Senate at the next legislative session, from holding a state job. Denis is a computer technician for the Public Utilities Commission.

They are seeking an injunction to force Denis out of his state job.

State Democratic Party representatives and legislators did not respond Thursday to requests for comment on Pojunis and the lawsuit.

At a news conference Wednesday, Becker said nine other legislators, seven of them Democrats, also should re­linquish the public employee jobs if they want to remain in the Legislature. The others, however, are not mentioned in the lawsuit.

In response to reporters' questions, NPRI lawyer Joseph Becker said Wednesday the lawsuit was not politically motivated, although many of the legislators they want to force from their jobs are liberal Democrats. He instructed Pojunis not to identify his political party, although Pojunis said he had not been involved in political campaigns in the past.

Instead the institute said Pojunis, 66, is an unemployed computer technician with 25 years of experience who wants to apply for Denis' Public Utilities Commission job. But the job, held by Denis since 1993, is not open.

A check Thursday showed Pojunis has been a member of the Clark County Republican executive board and the state Republican Party Central Committee. As communications director, he regularly attacked Democrats. The Clark County Republican Party said Pojunis left his communications director position a year ago .

Pojunis did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

Denis said Thursday he has not yet been served the lawsuit and would have no comment on it at this time. He said friends had made him aware of Pojunis' political background, but he declined to criticize him for not revealing this information at the Wednesday news conference.

Joecks said neither Becker nor Pojunis lied to reporters and his political leanings have nothing to do with the lawsuit.

"We didn't bring it up because the lawsuit is over a specific legal issue: that Senator Denis has violated the rights of Bill Pojunis by unconstitutionally holding an executive branch job while serving in the state Legislature," Joecks said in an email. "If we start introducing irrelevant issues like political affiliation, where do we stop? Religion? Marital status?"

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

 

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