Sandoval swears in 20 Cabinet members

CARSON CITY -- In a rare public ceremony, Gov. Brian Sandoval swore in 20 Cabinet members Tuesday, including acting Wildlife Department Director Ken Mayer, who was fired six weeks ago by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Sandoval then told his Cabinet members, who are directors of state agencies, that he wants all of their ideas on how to improve state government and service to the public.

Heidi Gansert, the governor's chief of staff, said Sandoval also wants agency directors' ideas on the state budget and spending but added, "Don't ask for money."

The Cabinet meeting was the first open to members of the media by a governor in at least 30 years. Sandoval said he wants transparency in government and will try to open many Cabinet meetings.

Sandoval discussed the executive order he issued Monday that suspends for a year the issuance of new rules by state agencies. He also discussed his executive order that prohibits state employees, including the governor and his staff, from accepting gifts from companies doing business with the state.

The governor's announcement that he is returning Mayer to lead the Wildlife Department drew cheers from other Cabinet members.

"He is an individual with 27 years of experience in the California wildlife system," Sandoval said after the swearing-in ceremony. "I have heard from a large part of the wildlife constituency that he has done a good job. He has my full confidence."

Mayer had been head of the Wildlife Department for three years when Gibbons fired him Nov. 22 as he was about to meet with members of Sandoval's transition team, who were considering whether to reappoint him.

State law requires governors to appoint the department's directors from recommendations made by the nine-member state Wildlife Commission. Leaving the position vacant gave the commission the power to recommend a new director. Sandoval worked around that requirement by naming Mayer acting director.

The Wildlife Commission has come under fire from conservation and wildlife protection groups for its approval of new policies, including opening a bear hunting season in parts of the state. Nevada has about 300 bears.

Governors appoint members to the Wildlife Commission. Gibbons appointed several commissioners who had long-standing disputes with the Wildlife Department. When their terms expire, Sandoval can decide whether to reappoint them.

By naming Mayer acting director, Sandoval can keep him on the job , or at least until the Wildlife Commission recommends Mayer for director and he can appoint him to that position.

Mayer is a certified wildlife biologist and editor-author of four books and more than two-dozen scientific papers on wildlife and habitats. He has a master's degree in natural resources management from Humboldt State University.

After the meeting, Sandoval said the state Agriculture Board still has not acted on his request to fire Agriculture Department Director Tony Lesperance. The board has a meeting scheduled for today in Reno.

The board has the power to name the state agriculture director. But Sandoval said he has asked members to dismiss Lesperance because of negative legislative audits and Personnel Department inquiries. Sandoval said he was concerned that a study by the Personnel Department found half the Agriculture Department employees don't like the work environment, saying temper tantrums and bullying are common.

Lesperance is a former Elko County commissioner who was part of the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade, which tried to reopen a remote, washed-out road that had been closed by the federal government in 2000.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.