House ethics panel says Berkley violated rules

WASHINGTON – Rep. Shelley Berkley violated House rules and its code of conduct by using her office to help her husband’s medical practice, the House Ethics Committee said Thursday in a report that concluded her actions were because of error and not corruption.

The committee delivered a mixed verdict after an investigation into Berkley’s conduct that became a major issue during her fall campaign and helped bring her political career to an end.

The 10-member panel cleared the Las Vegas Democrat of the most publicized allegation against her – that she had conflicts in working to save the kidney transplant program at University Medical Center in Las Vegas in 2008 without disclosing her husband had ties to the unit.

But investigators concluded she violated conflict of interest rules stemming from what it characterized as a permissive relationship between her office and her husband, prominent Las Vegas nephrologist Dr. Larry Lehrner.

It found Lehrner on four occasions between 2008 and 2010 contacted Berkley’s office to help his practice, Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada, collect late payments from Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Representative Berkley and her staff took actions in response to these issues to assist in KSSN (Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada) obtaining payment," the committee said.

The committee concluded that Lehrner was treated as no ordinary constituent, having direct access to her staff on matters as broad as medicine in general and as specific as "pertaining specifically to his business."

In contrast to her general approach to most constituent requests being handled by her Las Vegas staff, "Rep. Berkley’s policy staff (in Washington) worked directly on KSSN’s payment issue."

LACK OF POLICY CRITICIZED

The committee also found Berkley had no policy guiding her staff’s interactions with her spouse on official matters.

In the absence of one, "Dr. Lehrner was free to contact Representative Berkley’s office as he saw fit." His communications, often emails, sometimes would deal with subjects unrelated to medicine, such as Internet gaming.

But while raising questions about her practices, the committee said it found no evidence that Berkley acted with corrupt intent, or to "unduly enrich herself." Rather she "was mistaken" in applying House ethics rules to her circumstances.

Committee members appeared to believe Berkley’s argument that her motivation was derived from a fear that late government payments to doctors might result in physicians refusing to take veterans and others as patients under the federal programs.

"In sum, Representative Berkley’s activities in the health care policy realm appear to have been motivated by factors wholly divorced from her family’s financial well-being," the panel said in its findings.

After a preliminary examination by the Office of Congressional Ethics and a review by the Ethics Committee itself, the investigation was headed by a four-member subcommittee that was formed in July and led by Reps. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Donna Edwards, D-Md.

After completing their probe, subcommittee members were unable to reach a consensus on whether to issue a formal reproval letter to Berkley. They concluded the committee’s report would serve as reprimand enough.

BERKLEY’S COOPERATION PRAISED

The committee said it recommended no further action "in no small part based on Representative Berkley’s cooperative approach to this process and her candor."

The panel also said the House should create "clearer guidance" on conflict of interest rules based on this case and one involving Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., that was resolved earlier this year.

Berkley initially delivered about 1,000 pages of documents to the Ethics Committee after hiring Marc Elias, a leading ethics attorney and chairman of the political law practice at the Perkins Coie law firm, to represent her.

The subcommittee met 16 times and interviewed nine witnesses including Lehrner and members of Berkley’s staff. It issued three subpoenas for documents that resulted in the turnover of more than 108,000 pages of additional material.

Berkley testified voluntarily under oath on Dec. 4.

The ruling comes in the final days of the congressional session and puts a punctuation mark on Berkley’s 14-year House career. She is leaving Congress after losing a bid for U.S. Senate this fall in a campaign where Republicans spent millions of dollars attacking her on ethics and her wealth.

Berkley, 61, had pressed the Ethics Committee to complete its investigation in the hopes of leaving Congress with a clear name.

"I appreciate the committee’s recognition of my candor and willing participation in the process and its acknowledgement that elements of the rules in question should be clarified," Berkley said in a statement Thursday evening.

"This same concern for men and women in my community led me to act on behalf of local veterans who I feared would suffer if there were an interruption in kidney care provided through the VA," she said. "The committee’s findings on this issue show I acted only in the interest of protecting Nevada veterans who needed this critical kidney care."

CONTROVERSIAL ALLEGATION DISMISSED

The Ethics Committee dismissed the allegation first raised in a New York Times article in September 2011 that had captured the most attention in the following months.

The panel said it found no evidence that Berkley broke House rules in advocating on behalf of the UMC kidney transplant unit that was threatened with decertification in fall 2008.

It said Berkley took action after receiving a call from UMC’s then-CEO Kathy Silver, a situation that would have been unremarkable were it not for a contract that Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada held for kidney services at the hospital.

With then-Reps. Jon Porter and Dean Heller, both R-Nev., Berkley persuaded the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid not to pull the certification.

Material released by the committee indicates Berkley fought hard against the accusation of conflicts in her role.

In a Feb. 29, letter to the committee, Elias argued there was no evidence to suggest Berkley’s husband prompted her to get involved in saving the UMC kidney transplant center and said Porter took the leading role.

Elias said UMC leaders first took it upon themselves to reach out to the Nevada delegation to try and save the center. He said Lehrner took only two actions: He provided Berkley’s office phone number to the CEO of UMC when asked and reached out to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Lehrner’s practice enjoyed very little financial benefit from the UMC transplant center, Elias said, arguing Berkley’s husband’s income wouldn’t have declined if the center had closed.

"Representative Berkley’s involvement in this matter was not motivated in the least by any financial interests; her response was entirely motivated by, and consistent with, a brewing public health crisis," Elias wrote. "When she did act, she acted publicly, with the rest of her delegation."

The committee appeared to agree. It said Thursday it "could not determine the precise consequences of the kidney transplant center’s continued operations on KSSN’s existing contract," and concluded that whatever those consequences, "they did not factor into Representative Berkley’s decision-making at the time."

Laura Myers of the Review-Journal and Peter Urban of the Stephens Washington News Bureau contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Henderson police bodycam footage of officer-involved shooting
Henderson police released body-worn camera footage of an officer-involved shooting in a grocery store parking lot at 2667 Windmill Parkway on Aug. 12, 2018. (Henderson Police Department)
Bicyclist suffers major head trauma in hit-and-run
A bicyclist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Thursday morning hit-and-run crash near the school formerly known as Agassi Prep. Police said the bicyclist was hit by a white SUV, which fled the scene. The injured man suffered multiple injuries including major head trauma. As of 9 a.m., Lake Mead remained closed between Martin Luther King and Revere Street while police investigate.
Las Vegas artist Dave Dave dies at 42
Dave Dave talks about his art and his life in 2016. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dave Dave, whose dad set him on fire in 1983, dies
Dave Dave, a respected Las Vegas artist who was badly scarred as a boy when his father tried to burn him to death in Southern California, died at Sunrise Hospital on July 15. He was 42. When he was 6, Dave's father tried to kill him by setting him on fire. He was given a sleeping pill and his bed at a Buena Park, California, motel was doused with kerosene. “I remembered being in a lot of pain,” Dave told the Review-Journal in 2016. “When stuff happens to you at that young of an age, you tend to block it out, but I remember the pain was excruciating.” Dave, who was born David Rothenberg, became close friends with Michael Jackson, who met him after the attack, which burned more than 90 percent of his body. “I wanted to meet him, and he wanted to meet me, and that just turned into a lifelong relationship that never ended,” Dave said. “It was amazing being friends with Michael Jackson. He was an amazing person.” Dave attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, and collaborated with various artists around Las Vegas, eventually selling his art to private collectors. Despite his challenges, he continued to live, thrive and create. Dave Dave
Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like