It appears the Nevada legislature may get an assignment it's never head before....the possible impeachment of an elected official. A special session may be called next month to consider the fate of State Controller Kathy Augustine.
In fact it's only happened a couple of dozen times in other states. It's not something any legislative body anticipates and it's creating a lot of extra work and expense in Carson City.
Augustine is accused of using .... even coercing....members of her staff to work on her campaign 2 years ago....on state time, using state computers. In a negotiated settlement with the state Ethics Commssion Augustine admitted to 3 violations of state law and agreed to pay a $15-thousand dollar fine. The Attorney General's office says criminal charges won't be pursued. There's another, more appropriate avenue....
Gerald Gardner, Chief Deputy Attorney General, "We have determined that the impeachment process is the best means to achieve justice for the people of Nevada."
So, unless Augustine resigns, we're going to have an impeachment proceeding. Most state officials, including those from her own party have urged her to step down. She's declined to do so, so the Governor says he will call a special session of the legislature to consider her case. That sent everyone reaching for a copy of the constitution.
The constitution says the Assembly handles the impeachment, The Senate the trial itself.....and not much more.
The constitution says the Senators shall be sworn to do justice in accordance with the laws of procedure and evidence. But there's not much about the process.
So, the state is going to have to invent the details of the process. It's created a big stack of paper on Loren Malkiewich's desk and a lot of extra work for his legal staff at a time when they are already busy drafting legislation and preparing for the upcoming session.
Here's another glitch. While the legal staff is scrambling to prepare for the special session. the carpenters and painters here in the Assembly chambers will have to scramble to make sure this chamber is ready as well.
The assembly is undergoing some remodeling. Suddenly workers have a new deadline. They aren't alone. Legislative terms begin the day after election. That means there will be a lot of new lawmakers...at least 10, maybe more here in the Assembly sitting in these seats.. hearing this case almost before their careers begin.....some welcome to Carson City.
So this is all shaping up to be an intriguing civics lesson....though an expensive one. Malkiewich says start-up costs for a special session run $40 to $50 thousand dollars....and once the meter starts running...it's $20 to $30 thousand dollars a day. If it reaches trial in the Senate, as many as 15 witnesses could be called. It's not going to be over in a day or 2. The governor says...however...you can't put a price tag on ethics when it comes to the public's business. The State Controller and her attorneys agree.