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Brooks to take leave of absence from Nevada Assembly

CARSON CITY – Embattled state Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, was sworn into office on the opening day of the legislative session Monday but is expected to take a leave of absence of at least 10 days.

An agreement to take the leave was being negotiated Monday with Democratic leadership.

The Brooks saga filled an otherwise traditional first day of the Legislature with drama and uncertainty. Brooks was the center of attention as lawmakers attempted to go about business as usual, introducing family and taking the oath of office.

The deal with Brooks was confirmed by Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, who said a face-to-face meeting with him in a Democratic caucus meeting Sunday was cordial and included an apology.

But the details of the leave, which would include pay for Brooks of about $150 a day, were still being worked out.

Brooks faces a felony criminal charge stemming from allegations of a threat against Kirkpatrick. He was arrested Jan. 19.

Kirkpatrick said she wants Brooks to commit to an indefinite leave to deal with his medical issues, while the sophomore lawmaker wants a more definite leave of about 10 days so that he can return to the Legislature next week.

"I think he’s looking for some specific times and we’re trying to work with him," she said. "We want to give him ample time, so we don’t have to revisit it in another seven days. We want to make sure there’s enough flexibility, so he can make whatever arrangements he needs."

Brooks had little to say Monday.

He arrived at his legislative office about 10:50 a.m., declining to talk to reporters. He then took his seat in the Assembly chambers before leaving again to meet with Democratic leadership. He returned to the chambers, and the session began.

When asked whether it was his idea to take a leave, he said: "Go talk to my speaker. It’s her day, not mine."

Later, during a time for lawmakers to make remarks on the floor, Brooks thanked his aunt and uncle who were with him and said: "All praise be to God."

He also congratulated Kirkpatrick, saying, "You’re going to serve us well."

He joined in a standing ovation after she was elected the second female speaker in Nevada history.

His actions were at odds with the allegations that he threatened the speaker, reportedly because of unhappiness over his committee assignments. He has sought to replace her as speaker with another leader.

Brooks was followed by media and television cameras every time he emerged from the chambers, but he made only random and brief comments.

He dodged the cameras as often as possible, slipping into private offices and emerging by side doors. He was followed when he took a restroom break: The media waited outside for him to emerge.

Brooks appeared to behave normally during the floor session, reading documents and watching the action. He was dressed in a long dress coat with a boutonniere.

Kirkpatrick said she felt safe even with Brooks at the Legislature.

"I think today is going to be a great day," she said, before the session began. "There is no concern on my part."

Kirkpatrick said the Republican caucus was told of the developments and had no security concerns either.

Kirkpatrick said the idea of a leave for Brooks is not new. Last year Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, D-North Las Vegas, took a leave for the birth of her child. The same is expected to occur this session with Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, who is pregnant.

But even with the developments, she said a select committee will still be named Thursday to review Brooks’ conduct, but it is not expected to deal with the criminal case.

Kirkpatrick said the negotiations with Brooks are "uncharted territory," but she wants a signed document clearly stating the agreement for his leave.

"Because we need to plan and we need to move forward with the legislative process," she said. "So I want a piece of paper that says what the rules are."

Several days after his arrest, Brooks was taken into custody for a medical evaluation after a domestic dispute at a relative’s house.

He was released last week.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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