August 29, 2023 - 9:00 pm
Bad legal advice would get most lawyers fired. In Nevada’s Legislative Counsel Bureau, it appears to be the path to job security.
As the Review-Journal’s Taylor Avery recently exposed, a scandal is brewing around Democratic Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow. She recently became the executive director of The Arc Nevada, a nonprofit that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She took the job weeks after the Assembly approved $250,000 in taxpayer funding for the group.
The appropriation was part of Assembly Bill 525, which functioned as means of funding causes favored by the politically connected. For instance, the bill gave $2.5 million for an art museum in Las Vegas. There was $4.5 million for the Community Health Alliance in Northern Nevada. The Culinary Academy, which is connected with the powerful Culinary Local 226, received $15 million.
On the last day of the session, an amendment proposed a number of changes. One of them was providing $250,000 in taxpayer funds to The Arc Nevada. Including Ms. Gorelow, the nonprofit has only two employees. The money is fungible, but it’s noteworthy that the amendment also reduced the amount given to Special Olympics Nevada by $250,000.
Ms. Gorelow isn’t the only state politician with a link to The Arc Nevada. The group’s website lists Assemblywoman Tracy Brown-May as a director. The Assembly, of which Ms. Gorelow and Ms. Brown-May are members, concurred with the amended bill.
The conflict of interest is obvious, unless you’re a lawyer with the Legislative Counsel Bureau. The LCB asserted she didn’t need to abstain or make a disclosure because the bill affects most citizens in the state.
That’s a plausible claim to make about some bills, such as an across-the-board tax cut, but not this one. The money isn’t going to the general public. It’s steered to favored groups — one of which is now paying Ms. Gorelow’s salary. Enriching yourself from the public treasury isn’t acceptable just because you launder the money through a nonprofit that does good work.
This isn’t the only time the LCB has provided shoddy legal advice. Its attorneys told Democrats in 2019 that extending a tax increase didn’t require a two-thirds vote despite the plain wording of the state constitution. The Nevada Supreme Court smacked that legal mumbo-jumbo aside in a unanimous ruling. LCB attorneys have also abetted the Democratic leadership by claiming public employees may sit in the Legislature despite a clear constitutional prohibition against the practice.
Democrats have large majorities in Carson City. Despite its claims to be nonpartisan, the LCB isn’t offering nonpartisan legal advice. It has become a mouthpiece for the majority party.