Ex-state treasurer becomes ethics chief

CARSON CITY — Former state Treasurer Patty Cafferata is the new executive director of the state Ethics Commission.

Cafferata, 66, who will assume her new position Nov. 1, will be paid $94,136 per year to run the agency, which monitors the conduct of state and local government officials.

She replaces Patrick Hearn, who left a similar job in Oregon but then resigned his Nevada position after serving less than a year.

Thirty-six people applied for the post.

“I think I can bring the commission to a more professional level,” Cafferata said Monday. “I understand the political process and what it is like being an elected official.”

She will prepare preliminary reports on whether officials have violated ethics law, but the decisions are made by the eight-member Ethics Commission.

She said her background as a politician and a lawyer should help her in trying to push the commission’s agenda and bills through the Legislature.

She was chosen by the commission Friday. Her first action was to resign Saturday as a member of all partisan political committees and boards.

Cafferata had been one of the finalists when Hearn was named director last year.

Some commissioners had expressed concern at the time about hiring a director who had been so closely associated with the Republican Party and partisan politics.

Besides being elected state treasurer in 1982, Cafferata was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor in 1986.

She earlier had been a Republican member of the Assembly from Reno. In becoming state treasurer, she was the first woman in Nevada history to win statewide, constitutional office.

Her mother is retired Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev.

Cafferata co-authored her mother’s memoirs and has written three other books, mainly about Nevada history.

Since leaving state government, Cafferata graduated from law school and became a lawyer 17 years ago. She has served as district attorney in Esmeralda, Lincoln and Lander counties.

She declined direct comment Monday about the recent state Supreme Court decision in which justices reversed an Ethics Commission decision that Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman had violated ethics laws by hosting a party in Washington, D.C., for his son.

Ethics Commissioner Rick Hsu said the commission would be crippled if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Goodman.

“What would be our purpose if judges are going to substitute their own judgment for the Ethics Commission’s judgment?” Hsu asked.

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