The Nevada Policy Research Institute accused state Sen. Heidi Gansert of violating Nevada’s separation of powers clause in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The lawsuit claims on behalf of plaintiff Doug French that Gansert, R-Reno, violates the state constitution by serving as a senator and working in the state’s executive branch as executive director for external relations at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“The bigger picture is that we need to put an end to this violation,” NPRI spokesman Michael Schaus said. “It’s happened in the past, and it seems to happen repeatedly, but it’s ignored by both parties. I don’t think anyone has successfully challenged it.”
According to the lawsuit, French wants Gansert’s state position and is “duly qualified” for it.
“Fundamental to a free society is not having concentrations of power,” said Joseph Becker, director of the NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation. “We feel strongly about the constitution, and we feel strongly about power being diffused. It’s a good case for NPRI to take on.”
In 2011, the conservative think tank sued, on similar grounds, state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who then worked for the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada. Denis later quit his job at the PUC and sought employment in the private sector.
“If Heidi resigned, we’ll be right back to where we are,” Becker said. “But we’ll remain vigilant, because it’s an important issue facing the state. It needs not to be ignored.”
Becker said the NPRI hopes to “finally” get a court position on the issue.
Matt Lush, legislative assistant for Gansert, said the senator has not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.
UNR, the Board of Regents and the state of Nevada were also named in the suit.