CARSON CITY — Steven Brooks’ nascent political career in the Nevada Legislature could be derailed this week when his Assembly colleagues decide whether he is fit to serve.
A decision to oust Brooks from his District 17 seat would be unprecedented in the state’s nearly 150-year history.
Brooks’ future looked bright after he easily won a second Assembly term in November to represent his North Las Vegas constituents.
But his fortunes took an ominous turn Jan. 19. He was arrested by Las Vegas police who allege he threatened to harm newly named Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a fellow Democrat and North Las Vegas colleague, because he was unhappy with his committee assignments. A gun and ammunition were found in the trunk of the rented car Brooks was driving at the time, paid for by the Legislative Counsel Bureau for the upcoming legislative session.
That incident is still under review by the Nevada Attorney General’s office.
Brooks’ tenuous status as a lawmaker was further exacerbated by another arrest in a domestic violence incident that led to charges in Clark County.
He has been on paid leave from the Legislature and banned from the Legislative Building since Feb. 11.
Brooks’ fitness to serve will be considered Tuesday, when a seven-member Assembly Select Committee conducts a hearing at the Carson City District Court.
The 6 p.m. hearing, expected to last three hours, probably will result in a recommendation on whether the sophomore lawmaker will keep his seat.
The building, which has metal detectors, was selected for security reasons, said Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Select Committee.
The location will also keep Brooks out of the Legislative Building, where his presence at the start of the session prompted some employees to express concerns about their own safety.
The full Assembly will then vote on the committee’s recommendation, with a two-thirds vote required to remove Brooks from office. If removed, the Clark County Commission would name his replacement, who would also have to be a Democrat.
Brooks said in a brief telephone conversation last week that he will attend the hearing. Asked whether he and his attorney, Mitchell Posin, will present a defense to any information critical of him, Brooks abruptly hung up the phone.
Posin did not return calls seeking comment.
The hearing will include a review of the investigation and report by Independent Counsel Mark Ferrario, a Las Vegas attorney.
Ferrario was hired by the Legislative Counsel Bureau to conduct an assessment of Brooks’ recent behavior .
Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said Posin has been notified of the hearing date, and that he and Brooks will have the opportunity to respond to Ferrario’s report.
The process will be much like any other legislative committee hearing, and the public can witness at least part of it.
Horne said that privacy issues likely will require a closed session to discuss some confidential information about Brooks.
The committee could close the entire hearing, Horne said, “but I said from the beginning that this can’t be a completely closed process.”
Horne said he’d like the full Assembly to take up the Brooks matter at its next scheduled floor session after the select committee’s decision.
SWORN IN, THEN GONE
Brooks was sworn in with other newly elected lawmakers on the opening day of the session Feb. 4, and attended a couple of floor sessions and committee hearings before leaving on Feb. 7 to take care of a medical issue.
Horne, acting as chairman of the Select Committee, then banned Brooks from the building and placed him on paid leave a few days later.
Brooks has been involved in several other incidents since his initial Jan. 19 arrest. He also lost his job with the city of Las Vegas.
Days after posting bail, he was detained and hospitalized for a mental evaluation after a disturbance involving a sword at his grandmother’s house.
On Feb. 10, he was arrested on suspicion of physically attacking his estranged wife in Las Vegas, then grabbing for an officer’s gun as he was taken into custody.
He now faces charges, including a felony, in the domestic violence incident.
Most recently he attempted to buy a rifle at a Sparks sporting goods store, but was denied for one year based on a background check. The reason for the denial has not been disclosed.
Posin said the gun shopping situation was blown out of proportion.
Brooks has denied any wrongdoing in connection with any of the incidents.
In a separate legal matter, Brooks and his attorney have asked the Nevada Supreme Court to overturn his enforced paid leave of absence from the Assembly.
Posin said in a filing with the court that the Assembly does not have the authority to place Brooks on leave with pay.
“The Legislature is not his employer,” Posin said at the time of the filing. “He is an elected official.”
Brenda Erdoes, the Legislature’s legal counsel, filed a lengthy response on Wednesday, arguing that the Assembly has the authority to take “preventative and disciplinary action” against Brooks, based on its power of self-protection.
She also argued that the Assembly decision is not subject to review by the courts under Article 4, Section 6 of the state constitution.
Even if the decision is subject to review by the courts, the Assembly did not abuse its discretion or act in an arbitrary manner, Erdoes said.
The court is expected to schedule a hearing on the matter, but has not yet done so.
If Brooks is expelled this week, it may be a moot point.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900.