CARSON CITY – A retired accountant for the Agency for Nuclear Projects testified today that she was directed twice by her boss Bob Loux to divide up the salaries of employees who quit among remaining employees in the office.
Accountant Trudy Stanford said salaries of remaining employees were augmented first in 1999 and then in 2007 when other employees quit or retired. She said the salaries also were increased by 3.75 percent and then by 5 percent when the agency received grants from the Western Governors’ Association.
“When there was an employee vacancy and it was determined the position would not be filled, the money was divided equally among remaining employees,” Stanford told the Nevada Ethics Commission.
The first salary division was made with the approval of Vicki Soberinsky, a deputy chief of staff to then Gov. Kenny Guinn, according to Stanford.
The second was made without the approval of Gov. Jim Gibbons because Loux acted under the assumption that the new governor had not changed a Guinn administration policy that allowed him to change salaries on his own, she said.
Stanford said she never tried to conceal any of the salary changes.
Loux is appearing before the Ethics Commission to respond to a complaint by Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, that he broke ethics laws last year when he took the salary of a woman who retired from his agency and converted it into 16 percent salary increases for himself and five members of his staff.
He has been accused of giving himself salary increases during three consecutive years, including two when Guinn was governor, that exceeded legislatively authorized limits.
Gibbons’ office released an audit that determined Loux was paid more than $151,000 a year during the last fiscal year. That would be $10,000 more than Gibbons’ salary.
Loux and his attorneys dispute those figures.
The commission is not expected to complete its hearing today. Members likely will recess and decide on a date to finish the hearing.
If the commission finds Loux violated ethics laws, then he can be fined for a civil violation.
But that would not prevent him from later facing criminal charges. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said in January that at her request the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department is investigating whether a criminal indictment should be brought against Loux.
Stanford also testified today that several years ago she began to notice that the figures in the state budget did not reflect the pay employees actually were receiving and she tried to address the discrepancies with the state budget office. She said she never received a satisfactory answer from budget officials about the salary differences.
“We were experiencing shortfalls that had to be made up by other things,” she said. “It became super-evident at the end of the 2008 fiscal year that there was a substantial shortfall.”
“Things didn’t jell,” she added.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.