CARSON CITY — A former state lawmaker has filed a lawsuit in Clark County District Court alleging she was defamed by the state teachers union in campaign mailers sent out in her failed 2006 re-election bid.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by former state Sen. Sandra Tiffany, a Republican from Henderson.
She said in the lawsuit against the Nevada State Education Association that campaign mailers suggesting wrongly that she could go to prison for an ethics violation cost her the election.
Tiffany lost to political newcomer and Democrat Joyce Woodhouse, a retired long-time Clark County teacher and administrator, in the Senate 5 race.
At the time of the election, Tiffany was facing an inquiry by the state Ethics Commission into whether she used her position as a lawmaker to gain information about online government auctions in other states to benefit her own business.
She admitted to two willful violations in December 2006, and after her election loss she paid a $10,000 fine.
In her complaint, Tiffany said the teachers union defamed her by falsely claiming in mailers she engaged in acts that could result in felony criminal charges and that she "would be incarcerated in state prison" for the alleged ethics violations.
Tiffany said today she wants compensation in excess of $10,000 and attorneys fees.
"I’ve been in a lot of tough races and slung some mud myself, but these mailers had me going to state prison," she said. "With an ethics complaint the most you can get is a fine. So they willingly knew what they were doing."
Tiffany, who said she has no plans to return to public office, said she is serious about the lawsuit.
"This is defamation," she said. "We’re not kidding around here. Yes we want compensation and we want the teachers union to know they can’t do that to people. They can’t go that far over the line."
Tiffany said she thought about the idea of filing a lawsuit for a long time before going forward. There was no political reason for filing the complaint in the midst of the 2008 election season, she said.
The teachers association had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment today.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900.