CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons said Wednesday he made a “mistake” in using a state cell phone to send more than 850 text messages in March and April 2007 to the Reno woman with whom he has been accused of being involved.
During a news conference, Gibbons also denied having a sexual relationship with Kathy Karrasch, the estranged wife of Reno podiatrist C. Craig Karrasch, and insisted the messages were not love notes, but conversations about her dog, children and state government matters, even taxes.
The messages were sent only in response to messages Karrasch first sent him, he said.
The governor said he no longer sees or calls Karrasch. They ended any relationship they had because of “stress and all the media” attention “put a tremendous burden on her,” he said.
At the time he sent the text messages, some as late as 2 a.m., Gibbons was living in the Governor’s Mansion with his wife, former Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons.
In response to questions, Gibbons said he did not know if the first lady was aware of his messages to Karrasch. “You would have to ask her,” he said.
Gibbons filed for divorce on May 2.
Earlier this week, lawyers for the governor and first lady announced that they would no longer comment on their pending divorce. The lawyers halted further action in the divorce case to allow the couple to work out issues in the divorce.
Before the news conference, Gibbons said he would only answer questions about the text messages, not about the divorce.
Cal Dunlap, Dawn Gibbons’ lawyer, declined comment Wednesday on the governor’s statements.
Many of the text messages the governor sent to Karrasch were made between midnight and 2 a.m. He sent 170 text messages to her on April 1, 2007, ending them shortly before 2 a.m. and then beginning again just after 8 a.m.
When asked if his relationships with women have prompted public speculation, Gibbons defended his right to decide whom he befriends.
The governor recently was photographed at a Reno pancake house having breakfast with Leslie Durant, the ex-wife of former Reno Mayor Pete Sferrazza. Durant was a Playboy model in 1989.
“I don’t think anyone should tell you or me who your friends can or cannot be,” Gibbons said.
After learning the state had been billed for his messages to Karrasch, Gibbons said he wrote two checks, for a total of $130, to cover those costs, and began using his private cell phone for text messages and calls to friends. Gibbons said he had assumed text messaging was free with his cell phone service.
The governor cited “incompatibility in marriage” as the reason for his divorce from his wife of 22 years.
But Dunlap filed a motion in May in which he said the real reason for the divorce was the governor’s involvement with a married woman. He referred to the woman as a “marital intruder.”
Gibbons quickly denied he was having an affair with Karrasch, but said they were friends of more than 15 years. He has attended school events for Karrasch’s children.
Initially he said Wednesday he could not remember the contents of any messages to Karrasch, but later said he texted her about state matters, including seeking her advice on taxation.
“(She) advised on taxation and a number of things, even personnel management issues. I’m sure there were things about her children and the latest issue with the dog.”
The messages were sent during the 2007 legislative session.
“It was a very stressful time for me,” he said. “I texted a lot of people about issues.”
He said he continues to frequently text people using his personal phone, including friends and staff members, often at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“Just ask Patty Wade (a campaign adviser) or Dani or Jim Denton (friends and political consultants). I am a person who sleeps very little, two hours or three hours a night. I am constantly sitting there thinking about issues.”
Gibbons added most of his messages to Karrasch were sent on weekends or during the evenings and did not interfere with his work as governor.
Contact reporter Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.