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Week in Review: Top News

John Ensign may have gotten out of the Senate while the getting was good.

Members of a Senate ethics panel that spent 22 months investigating Ensign said Thursday that ample evidence was found to consider expelling the Nevada Republican.

But Ensign’s troubles may not be over.

Along with releasing its detailed findings, the Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to refer the matter to the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission for possible criminal prosecution.

Experts familiar with the case said it would be an outright shock if the Justice Department declined to prosecute Ensign.

Ensign, 53, resigned on May 3 after a 10-year Senate career marred by a scandal that began with an extramarital affair and ended with allegations of hush-money payments and the destruction of evidence.

Monday

Heller sworn in

Dean Heller took his appointed place in Ensign’s old seat, becoming just the 25th man to represent Nevada in the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, state GOP chairman Mark Amodei became the fifth Republican to enter the race to replace Heller in the House of Representatives.

A special election will be held on Sept. 13 to fill the now-vacant seat in Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.

Tuesday

Water bribery scheme

A former state regulator and a former local utility official have been charged in a $1.3 million bribery scheme designed to take advantage of Southern Nevada’s insatiable thirst for water.

Robert A. Coache, 52, and Michael E. Johnson, 51, are accused of unlawfully taking the money to help a wealthy Bunkerville landowner sell $8.4 million in water rights to the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Wednesday

Banker behind bars

A former Ely City Councilman was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison for embezzling almost $5.9 million from a bank where he worked.

Stephen Marich is believed to have taken the money from the First National Bank of Ely over a 12-year period.

The FBI determined that his former wife, Reno federal prosecutor Sudabeh Fahami, played no role in the crime.

Thursday

Sick leave probed

Fourteen Clark County firefighters are being investigated and could face punishment for possible sick leave abuse, county officials said.

This is an administrative probe that is separate from the criminal investigation being done by the police and FBI.

A source said that at least one firefighter could be fired and others could be demoted.

Officials estimate that firefighters’ sick leave cost the county $7 million in 2009, partly because tight staffing requires those who fill in for co-workers to be paid overtime.

Friday

Mostly proficient?

The Senate Education Committee approved a bill to allow seniors to secure full-fledged diplomas even if they fail to pass a portion of the high school proficiency exam.

Under Assembly 456, students who earn at least a 2.75 grade-point average and have no discipline or absence problems could receive standard diplomas if their overall score on the four-part exam is high enough.

Clark County School District Associate Superintendent Joyce Haldeman said the bill will help about 100 students a year who invariably fail the math portion of the test, even though they pass other sections and do well in the classroom.

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