Gibbons’ reputation costing state business, candidate says

CARSON CITY — Rory Reid, a Democrat running for governor, said Thursday that Nevada cannot attract investments that would create jobs today because of the reputation of Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“With the governor having the reputation he has, do you think it helps?” Reid said during an interview at a restaurant across from the Legislative Building. “Is that a good selling point? We need a leader who will build a reputation of trust for Nevada.”

His comments came during a series of interviews with members of the capital press. Reid was in Northern Nevada pitching a series of initiatives to improve public confidence in government.

They include requiring the Legislature to follow the open meeting law, releasing in advance his daily schedule and requiring a two-year cooling off period before ex-legislators can serve as legislative lobbyists.

He spoke in the Comma Coffee restaurant, a place popular with young people that was visited last year by most presidential candidates, including Barack Obama.

In response to Reid’s criticism, Gibbons’ communications director, Daniel Burns, questioned what “reputation” Reid was talking about.

“Salacious, false TMZ-style stories in the media make no difference to CEOs who want to save money by moving their business to Nevada,” he said.

Burns said Reid, the Clark County Commission chairman, should be more concerned about the county-run University Medical Center, which operates in the red, than state responsibilities.

“Is Commissioner Reid going to run the state like how UMC is run?” Burns asked. “If he does, this state will be bankrupt like California in short order.”

Gibbons has been accused of trying to assault a cocktail waitress outside a Las Vegas restaurant and of taking bribes while serving in Congress in exchange for securing Defense Department business for a Reno friend.

The Clark County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute him on the allegations brought by cocktail waitress Chrissy Mazzeo, and the Justice Department investigated the bribery allegations and took no action.

And Gibbons has been involved in a very public divorce with first lady Dawn Gibbons, and he faces a divorce trial later this month.

“What I can say conclusively is people have no confidence in him (Gibbons) as a leader,” Reid said. “People don’t know why he makes the decisions he made. He doesn’t talk to people. He doesn’t talk to the press as much as he should.”

Reid also accused the governor of playing politics when he recently talked of the possibility of calling a special legislative session and cutting spending by as much as 10 percent.

“This is about politics,” Reid said. “There are systems in place to deal with interim budget deficits, the kind we have today. The governor shouldn’t drag legislators to Carson City and spend taxpayers’ money because his re-election hopes aren’t what he wants.”

Recent polls commissioned by the Review-Journal show Gibbons trailing former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval 2-to-1 in a Republican primary. Reid lags 11 points behind independent Oscar Goodman, who has not announced whether he intends to seek the governor’s office, and 8 points behind Sandoval in the poll.

Reid was accompanied Thursday by Dick Morgan, a retired dean of Boyd Law School, who advises Reid on his plans to improve ethical behavior in government.

When asked, Reid could not give specific examples of unethical behavior by lawmakers that prompted the need for his initiatives.

Reid wants to require lobbyists to report all of their expenditures made on lawmakers year-round, not just during the 120-day legislative sessions.

He also said he would hold weekly news conferences, meet occasionally with state workers and with the public at forums.

Reid also wants to make the Legislature subject to the open meeting law. He noted that the Legislature passed a law requiring local governments to follow the open meeting law but exempted itself.

He pledged that his administration would be open and transparent, but he would not commit to holding discussions in public with legislative leaders on key issues.

Before convening two special sessions in 2008, Gibbons met privately with legislative leaders in the offices of Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and hammered out agreements. Gibbons refused to let the media attend those meetings.

Earlier this year, legislative leaders met for weeks behind closed doors before emerging to announce an agreement on $800 million in tax increases. The media were barred from the meetings.

Reid said he will not announce his views on possible tax increases at least until a panel of 19 citizens releases its report on its vision for Nevada’s future.

The group will hold a series of meetings conducted by Moody’s, an economic research firm hired by the Legislature to study Nevada’s tax structure. The group’s report might be released next July.

“I think everything should be on the table,” said Reid. He noted in particular there should be discussions on levying a higher tax on gold mining.

Burns said that if Reid is elected, Nevada soon will have personal income and corporate income taxes that will drive more businesses away.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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