A Las Vegas city councilman says the city should consider reinstating pay for Assemblyman Steven Brooks, who has been on unpaid leave since his Jan. 19 arrest on allegations of threatening to harm state Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick.
Brooks, who is also a city employee, was placed on leave Jan. 22 , the first workday after his arrest.
Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin, himself a former state lawmaker, said Monday the 40-year-old assemblyman hasn’t been found guilty of a crime, and his recent erratic behavior may be because of a mental illness.
Brooks was taken into custody again Friday for a medical evaluation after a domestic dispute at a relative’s house.
"It became pretty obvious that Mr. Brooks is ill; you don’t need to go through a long bureaucratic procedure to reinstate him," Coffin said. "They didn’t do the procedure to take him off pay."
City spokesman David Riggleman declined to comment on the specifics of Brooks’ case.
"The city is treating his situation as a personnel matter, so in keeping with standard practice the city will reserve further comment at this time while the facts surrounding his case are thoroughly reviewed," Riggleman said.
Riggleman added that Brooks remains a city employee, which means he could take advantage of the city’s employee assistance program, a confidential system for employees who need help dealing with substance abuse, addiction or mental health issues.
Coffin, a member of the Legislature from 1982 to 2010, said legislators should give Brooks a chance to serve, despite his arrest and erratic behavior.
"I would give him time to be coming up and be sworn in and watch his attendance and see if he is capable of functioning," Coffin said. "He still has a week to get up there and be sworn, and even then he shouldn’t be expelled if he misses opening day."
Kirkpatrick said Monday she has no plans to seek Brooks’ expulsion from the Assembly.
Also on Monday, state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, one of the witnesses quoted in a North Las Vegas police declaration of arrest, released a statement saying, "I never told anyone that I had knowledge from Steve of a direct threat on the Speaker’s life."
In the North Las Vegas report, an officer wrote that Atkinson "told me he had, in fact, spoken to Assemblyman Brooks. He said Assemblyman Brooks told him he want (sic) to ‘do in’ Speaker Kirkpatrick. He said he was driving around town and had a ‘loaded’ gun in the car."
Atkinson is the second witness to try to distance himself from the events leading up to the arrest or to outright deny Brooks made threats.
Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow issued a more extensive denial Friday.
North Las Vegas Police Department spokesman Sgt. Tim Bedwell said it’s not uncommon for witnesses to feel remorse once they realize the consequences of reporting something to police.
But that doesn’t change the facts of the case from the perspective of police, he said.
"We have a record of what has been said to us," Bedwell said. "If people want to change their story, there is a place for that. They can certainly come back to the police department if they want to change the record as it is, but that hasn’t happened."
If the case goes to court, it would be another opportunity for Atkinson and other witnesses to give their version of events under oath.
"When he gets on the stand, he can clarify what he meant when he talked to us," Bedwell said.
Brooks’ attorney, Mitchell Posin, said the denials show the case against his client is flawed.
"It sure sounds as if no claim was ever made that Steve had ever committed any crime," Posin said. "The only people who are the source for this alleged crime seem to say it never happened. That, to me, is outrageous."
The case is in the hands of the state attorney general’s office, which is acting as prosecutor because it involves public officials.
Thom Gover, chief deputy attorney general, said prosecutors have up to three years to file a complaint in a felony case but hope to act as soon as possible once the investigation is complete.
"Hopefully the investigation will include mental health issues too," Gover said. "One of the elements is I have to prove this person can form intent to commit a crime."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .