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After verbal attacks on elected officials, Sisolak security detail to grow

Updated April 14, 2022 - 6:11 am

In the wake of verbal attacks on elected officials, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s security detail is expected to grow.

The Board of Examiners approved a request for three new dignitary protection positions, including two officers and one sergeant, at a Tuesday meeting. That approval next moves to the Interim Finance Committee, scheduled to meet May 5, for final approval and will cost $373,051.

A memorandum from the Department of Public Safety, which runs the governor’s security detail, said the expansion to eight protective roles was necessary because of “various national threat alerts.”

“Recently our own state experienced verbal attacks on elected officials in a public place,” the memo stated. “A recent assessment of the Dignitary Protection operation by the Capital Police Chief revealed the need for expanding the protective team. With this being an election year, the need for stronger protective services is critical to protect Governor and First Family.”

The memo references a pair of high-profile incidents in recent months involving Nevada public officials.

First, Sisolak and his wife were accosted in late February by two men shouting racial and anti-government threats at them. In a video posted on social media, Justin Andersch — a self-described “digital creator” who posts extreme-right conspiracy theories on his website — appears to ask Sisolak for a photo before unleashing a verbal tirade at him.

“You’re in here without security?” he shouted. “I’m surprised you have the balls to be out here in public, punk.”

Sisolak later asked Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson not to prosecute Andersch.

In another incident, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo — who is also running for governor — was accosted in similar fashion at a public event.

Lombardo was at a panel discussion at The Smith Center on March 28 when Shaun Navarro, a member of the steering committee for the Las Vegas Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, approached.

Navarro appeared to pose for a picture with Lombardo before directing an expletive at him. As Lombardo walked away, Navarro called Lombardo a string of insults that included references to Nazis and white nationalist groups.

“Unfortunately, that’s where we’ve devolved as a society, right?” Lombardo said later. “You saw it happen to the current governor and myself. People think that is their 15 minutes of fame I guess is the way how I would describe it.”

Both verbal attacks were mostly condemned by politicians from across the state.

All three members of the Board of Examiners — Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske — voted to approve the request. The only discussion during the meeting was whether Sisolak had a conflict of interest and could vote on the item.

The proposal will ultimately call for a sergeant and an officer in Las Vegas, and an officer in Carson City. It will also increase the dignitary protection budget, which stands at about $1.2 million before the new personnel are added. The proposal indicated that the budget would likely have to be reconsidered next year as well.

Contact Jonah Dylan at jdylan @reviewjournal.com. Follow @TheJonahDylan on Twitter.

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