Republican gubernatorial nominee Jim Gibbons is denying involvement in an attempt to silence a former mine manager who won a federal whistleblower case after speaking about conditions at a contaminated mine site.
"I don't even know this individual. I've never met him. I've
never talked to him. I've never talked to anyone about him,"
Gibbons said Wednesday. "This is an empty political charge by the
The five-term congressman and mining industry ally was attacked
this week by Democrats citing the dismissal of Earle Dixon, former
site manager of the abandoned Anaconda copper mine near Yerington.
A federal administrative law judge ruled last week that Dixon
was fired illegally for speaking about the dangers of uranium,
arsenic and other toxic materials at the site about 65 miles
southeast of Reno.
"Gibbons had the chance to do the right thing when dangers at
the mine were being exposed," Kirsten Searer, spokeswoman for the
Nevada Democratic Party, said in a statement. "Instead, he chose
to use his position to protect his cronies and himself."
In a Sept. 9, 2004 letter, Gibbons urged the Bureau of Land
Management to shift oversight of the former mine site from Carson
City to the Nevada State Office in Reno. A month later, Dixon was
fired. Gibbons' letter was cited in an internal human resources
memo explaining reasons for the dismissal.
Gibbons said he had nothing to do with Dixon's firing. He said
he wrote the letter to push for a reorganization to keep the mine
from being designated a federal Environmental Protection Agency
priority Superfund cleanup site.
Gibbons said he believed Superfund designation would stigmatize
Yerington and hurt the local economy.
"At that point in time, it was my view that the state's
involvement was the best way to find a solution to the problem,"
he said. "My letter simply said the site should have unified
management. I thought that the three agencies could do best under
Nevada leadership and that (then-BLM Nevada Director) Bob Abbey's
leadership was best for the problem. It was about jurisdiction, not
The letter was written after Dixon began aggressively pursuing
measurement of uranium radiation on the site.
At the time, the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection
was the lead agency with BLM and the EPA to get the former mine
site cleaned up. The site is owned by Atlantic Richfield Co., a
subsidiary of energy giant British Petroleum.
Since Dixon's departure, the EPA has been heading the cleanup.
But no official Superfund designation has been made.
Gibbons has accepted more than $4,000 in donations from Atlantic
Richfield during his nearly two decades in politics. He said
Wednesday his advocacy was related only to his feelings about state
and federal control.
"I'm a firm believer today that the state of Nevada is far
better to handle that," he said. "But whenever you leave it to
the federal government, you're going to end up with delays and
problems that are characteristic of the government bureaucracy in
Washington, D.C. You've got to try to keep the federal government
out of it."
Gibbons is vying for governor against Democratic state Sen. Dina