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Nevada Assembly ousts embattled legislator Brooks

CARSON CITY — The bizarre 10-week odyssey of troubled state lawmaker Steven Brooks saw some measure of finality Thursday when the Assembly voted to expel him from the Nevada Legislature.

The voice vote easily exceeded the two-thirds requirement to oust the two-term assemblyman.

The Clark County Commission will pick a Democrat from District 17 in North Las Vegas to replace him.

Brooks, who answered his phone after the vote, said only, “You just want to harass a poor old crazy guy just because I’m black.”

He then hung up.

The brief floor session saw a lot of emotion from lawmakers, including Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who choked up when calling for the vote to expel Brooks.

“Motion carried by a constitutional two-thirds majority vote, Steven J. Brooks II is hereby expelled from the Assembly and I hereby declare Assembly District 17 vacant,” she said.

HORNE, OTHERS EXPLAIN VOTES

In making a report to the full Assembly on the decision of the Select Committee that he led, Majority Leader William Horne said he felt less secure at the end of the investigation than when Brooks’ erratic behavior first began in January.

“Ultimately the report from independent counsel painted a picture of a man who is volatile, prone to angry outbursts and potentially dangerous,” the Las Vegas Democrat said. “In fact, since the odd events which led to these proceedings, Assemblyman Brooks has continued to engage in questionable and unpredictable behavior.”

Horne said Brooks tried to buy a rifle with a scope, night vision goggles and a bullet-proof vest.

He said that Brooks made no effort to secure help and that the people who work in the Legislative Building deserve to be safe.

“As I stand before you today, I do not feel any more comfortable than I did at the beginning of the investigation,” Horne said. “I actually feel less comfortable.”

After the vote, Horne said Brooks will continue to be banned from the building, though he is now just a member of the public.

Assemblyman Wes Duncan, R-Las Vegas, spoke on the floor and offered a detailed explanation of his vote on the Select Committee to expel Brooks. He said that the independent counsel’s report showed “there was paranoia, there was mood swings, there was violent outbursts and there was a propensity for violence that I saw in those documents that would give everyone here pause.”

The report showed “there are many staff here who fear Mr. Brooks,” he said.

The people of Assembly District 17 don’t have a voice, Duncan said.

“They deserve to have a voice,” he said.

SOME VOTED AGAINST EXPULSION

Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, who voted to suspend, not expel, Brooks as a member of the Select Committee, said she received emails suggesting she was racist for her vote to suspend Brooks.

She shed tears in explaining her vote to the full Assembly.

“I believe there are degrees of discipline, and based on the confidential records I saw, my decision remains that Steven be suspended from this body,” Neal said.

Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, said he voted against expulsion because he heard Brooks talking on the Patricia Cunningham radio show on KCEP-FM on Saturday, and “he presented himself very competently.”

“He sounded extremely rational,” Munford said. “He sounded like he knew what he was saying.”

Brooks’ ouster from the Legislature, a first in Nevada’s nearly 150-year history, won’t end his difficulties, but it will free the Assembly to focus on the budget and bills as the second half of the 120-day session gets under way.

Brooks, a Democrat, now has lost both his day job with the city of Las Vegas and his part-time position in the Legislature.

Several members of the seven-member Assembly Select Committee who voted to oust Brooks said that the decision was difficult and that they hoped he would seek the care he needs to restore his mental and physical health.

BROOKS STILL FACES CHARGES

Brooks’ troubles began with a Jan. 19 arrest on allegations that he threatened Kirkpatrick over his committee assignments.

Brooks still faces criminal charges, including a felony, stemming from a domestic violence arrest involving his wife in February. The Kirkpatrick matter is still under review by the Nevada attorney general’s office.

Brooks’ removal from office could result in legal action on his behalf against the Legislature. His attorney, Mitchell Posin, said Tuesday he has not yet discussed such an option with Brooks.

Horne said after the vote that the Legislature’s legal staff is prepared for any legal challenge, and “I’m confident that our actions here were well within the scope of our body.”

Horne, a member of the Select Committee, which voted 6-1 late Tuesday to recommend Brooks’ expulsion, said his fellow Democrats were being briefed on the panel’s action in caucus sessions before the Assembly floor vote.

There were a lot of questions, he said.

“It’s an enormous leap sometimes to ask your colleagues to trust you on matters, but as I stated last (Wednesday) night, the members on that committee were chosen for a reason: because of how their colleagues view them,” Horne said.

Assembly Republicans also caucused on the Brooks recommendation.

Select Committee members Horne and Duncan, with Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno; Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson; Richard Carrillo, D-Las Vegas; and Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas; voted to recommend expulsion.

SECRECY CHALLENGED

There has been some fallout for Horne over the decision of the Select Committee to review a voluminous report on Brooks prepared by an independent counsel in closed session without the public present.

On Thursday, 14 Nevada news organizations filed a records request with the Legislative Counsel Bureau seeking the report, which has also been kept confidential.

Among the media outlets seeking the information are the Las Vegas Review-Journal and affiliated publications, the Las Vegas Sun, the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Nevada Appeal in Carson City, KLAS-TV, Channel 8, The Associated Press and the Nevada Press Association.

Horne said the reason for the secrecy was to protect Brooks’ privacy and avoid inflicting further harm on the now ex-lawmaker.

Horne said when the Select Committee hearing began that the state constitution allows the Legislature to meet in private to consider the character, alleged misconduct, professional competence or physical or mental health of a member.

“The information that was obtained through the investigation and included in the report are of a private nature, and we do not feel it is appropriate to make that information public,” he said. “While we always favor open meetings, there is a point at which we must also protect the privacy of others.”

Only Brooks could have waived the confidentiality requirement, and he did not do so.

Brooks was banished from the Legislative Building by Horne on Feb. 11 because of his questionable behavior.

A few days after his Jan. 19 arrest, Brooks was hospitalized for a mental evaluation after a disturbance at his grandmother’s house involving a sword.

On Feb. 10, he was arrested on suspicion of physically attacking his estranged wife in Las Vegas, then grabbing for an officer’s gun as he was taken into custody.

Brooks attended the opening day of the Legislature on Feb. 4 and attended a few committee meetings and floor sessions before abruptly leaving on Feb. 7 to seek what he said was medical treatment.

He has not returned to the Legislative Building since then.

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