Malfeasance Complaint Dismissed in Pay Flap

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A malfeasance complaint filed against the longtime head of a state agency fighting federal plans for a high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was dismissed Wednesday by a judge.

The complaint filed by conservative political activist Chuck Muth claimed that Bob Loux, head of the state Nuclear Projects Office, illegally raised his pay. But District Judge Bill Maddox said Muth's complaint relied upon a law that applies to local rather than state officials.

Maddox said he lacked jurisdiction over the case, and any effort to remove Loux from office would be handled by the state Commission on Nuclear Projects, which oversees his agency, or by the state Legislature which could impeach him.

Loux declined to comment after the brief District Court hearing. His attorney, Judy Sheldrew, said she was turning her attention to an ethics complaint filed against Loux by Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno.

Muth said Loux "got off this morning on a technicality," but should still resign because "he's now a detriment to the state, to the project he's worked so many years on." Muth also said he'd encourage the state attorney general to investigate Loux. Gansert has made the same request.

Loux has been under pressure from Gov. Jim Gibbons to resign, but wants to meet with members of the Commission on Nuclear Projects, headed by Richard Bryan, a former governor and U.S. senator, before making a decision. The commission meets Sept. 23.

The state official confirmed last week that he gave himself and six other agency staffers unauthorized pay raises. In remarks to state legislators, Loux said the raises last fiscal year were covered by money left over when another employee left. He added that the money spread among the staffers in the form of raises amounted to about $72,000.

Loux has been drawing a $151,542 yearly salary, nearly a third more than his authorized amount, according to documents released by the governor's office.

The pay raises were stopped once the problem was discovered last
month. Also, Josh Hicks, Gibbons' chief of staff, was directed to
review all salary increases given state employees.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)