Ethics hearing hits snag


CARSON CITY -- A planned Sept. 11 Nevada Ethics Commission hearing on a complaint filed by Democrats over a property tax break for Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons was complicated Friday when one commissioner, a former state Democratic Party chairman, recused himself.

Patty Cafferata, executive director of the commission, said Paul Lamboley of Reno stepped down because of concerns that the hearing process wouldn't appear neutral. She added that Lamboley hadn't realized that the complaint against Gibbons was filed by the state Democratic Party.

Lamboley and Commissioner Mark Hutchison, a Las Vegas Republican, were scheduled to conduct the hearing. State law requires a party split on such two-member panels, which determine whether there's sufficient cause to send a complaint to the full commission.

Such hearings normally are closed, but Gibbons, who has urged the commission to ignore "wild hearsay" and dismiss the complaint, has requested that all proceedings and documents related to the complaint be public.

The complaint against Gibbons was filed by Travis Brock, the state Democrats' executive director, after The Associated Press reported in July that Gibbons got the tax liability on 40 acres he owns in scenic Lamoille cut from about $5,000 to $39.71.

In seeking dismissal of the complaint, Gibbons said Democrats didn't comply with a rule that requires an ethics complaint to be backed up by more than "a newspaper article or other media report."

The governor said the rule prevents "partisan ethics complaints, such as this one, that are based on nothing more than wild hearsay and unsupported accusations, and designed to do nothing more than grab cheap headlines and damage the reputations of public officials."

Gibbons bought the Lamoille property for $575,000 a year ago.

Elko County Assessor Joe Aguirre has said he felt pressured when Gibbons visited him in the fall seeking an agricultural designation. That was followed by an application and letters on Gibbons' behalf submitted by attorney John Marvel, a member of the state Tax Commission.

 

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