Yucca slush fund?

Some are trying to “spin” the current troubles of Bob Loux, executive director of Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects, as a partisan issue. Because Mr. Loux is in charge of organizing Nevada’s opposition to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, those calling for his resignation over recently revealed financial irregularities are merely using this as an excuse to hamper those efforts, according to this line of argument.


Among those who have declared that Mr. Loux should not continue in office based on the recent revelations is former Gov. Bob Miller, a leading Democrat and stalwart opponent of the Yucca Mountain Project.

What Mr. Loux now admits he did, for those who missed it, is to grant unauthorized pay raises of about 33 percent to himself and five other staffers. Because another employee got sick and retired, his workload and those of his associates “increased by 15 to 20 percent” last year, Mr. Loux explained to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Tuesday.

So Mr. Loux simply took the money authorized to pay the retired worker and divvied it up among himself and his co-workers.

As a result, Mr. Loux ended up drawing a salary of $151,542, nearly 33 percent more than his authorized $114,088 — more, in fact, than the $141,000 paid Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Others in his office found themselves making $79,857 to $125,253 — again, about 33 percent more than their authorized rates of pay.

How did Mr. Loux get caught? Like a forgetful stickup man returning to the bank to ask if his big “withdrawal” qualifies him for the free toaster, this 32-year state employee asked the Interim Finance Committee this week for permission to transfer $500,000 from his current budget to cover the amount he overspent last year, including an extra $72,000 to cover the additional retirement and other benefit expenses that he forgot to consider when he jacked up everyone’s salaries beyond their legal limits.

It would be traditional here to make some remark about those who remain in government jobs so long that they come to believe their offices are personal fiefdoms, in which they’re free to bestow money and favors like medieval barons. But where such remarks sometimes seem exaggerated for effect, here they hardly suffice to describe the arrogance on view.

Mr. Loux says he sees no reason to consider resigning till he has a chance to talk with the state Commission on Nuclear Projects, headed by former Gov. (and former U.S. Sen.) Richard Bryan — the umbrella organization under whose authority he serves.

Meantime, efforts appear to be under way to allow Mr. Loux to repay the excess from his own paychecks through some kind of ad hoc “payroll deduction” plan. But that’s not sufficient. Even when a bank robber is allowed to make restitution “over time,” that rarely excuses him from facing other penalties.

Mr. Loux is not some little kid, mixing up the nickels at his first lemonade stand. Rather, his unauthorized use of tens of thousands of dollars in state funds was massive, purposeful and systematic.

Did he really believe that if the remaining five workers quit, he could simply sign their names on the forms and pay himself an extra half million dollars?

Mr. Loux should resign. His state pension — assuming it’s not endangered by any language about criminal use of state property — should be reviewed to make sure he does not further benefit from larding up his own paycheck.

Appropriate authorities should also investigate this pattern of behavior to determine whether it merits criminal prosecution.

And none of this has anything to do with the Yucca Mountain Project.

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