Official: Gibbons had authority to grant raises to staff

CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons had a legal right to give his staff additional duties and raise their salaries without legislative consent, his communications director said today.

A 1999 state law gives the governor the right to pay his staff as he deems appropriate as long as he does not exceed his legislatively approved total salary budget for his office, Daniel Burns said.

Gibbons intends to keep his promise to decrease his own salary and those of his staff on July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year, Burns said.

The governor called for 6 percent salary reductions for all state employees, teachers and college and university professors and employees in his proposed two-year budget.

"This was media reporting at its worst," Burns said about news reports on the salaries Gibbons is paying his staff. "To suggest there was lawbreaking is wrong."

Burns said Gibbons giving pay increases is completely different from former Agency for Nuclear Projects administrator Bob Loux giving pay increases to himself and his staff.

Loux last week was brought before the state Ethics Commission on a complaint by Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, that he had raised salaries of his staff by 16 percent. He admitted he had converted the salary of a woman on his staff who retired to salary increases for himself and his staff.

But Loux forgot to include increases in retirement benefits that resulted from the salary increases. That caused the total salary budget for his office to exceed the legislatively approved limit.

“Loux didn’t have authority to exceed his budget,” Burns said. “That never happened here (in the governor’s immediate office).”

The Agency for Nuclear Projects, however, was placed in the governor’s office by the 1999 law.

During testimony last week, former Gov. Kenny Guinn, four his former chiefs of staff and three high-ranking officers in Gibbons’ staff all testified Loux did not have their permission to increase his and his staff salaries.

The Loux hearing resumes again March 25.

Burns said Gibbons could have a staff as large as 27 people, but he has chosen to keep 11 positions vacant.  Existing employees have been given additional duties and awarded salary increases.

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