Embattled Nevada Controller Says She Will Stay On Job

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Even though facing an ethics complaint that could get her removed from office, Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine said Tuesday it's "business as usual in our office."

Augustine, attending a state Board of Finance meeting, declined to comment on the complaint filed by the state attorney general's office with the state Ethics Commission, alleging she used her office staff for campaign work during office hours in the 2002 election.

"I can't talk to you," Augustine said when asked about the case. She has referred questions to her lawyer, John Arrascada of Reno.

Asked about her office schedule, she made the "business as usual" remark and added she'd be at work every day "to take care of the financial affairs of the state."

Augustine also repeated her earlier comment that she didn't offer to resign for personal reasons, during discussions with the attorney general's office about its more than yearlong probe that led to the Ethics Commission complaint.

Attorney General Brian Sandoval has said Augustine intends to stipulate to a willful violation of the state's ethics code. If the Ethics Commission finds a willful violation, it must turn the case over to the Legislature for an impeachment procedure.

The proceedings could occur when the 2005 Legislature convenes next February, or in a special session.

Sandoval also has said he's not dropping a felony complaint against Augustine, but that complaint won't be filed immediately in Carson City District Court. Augustine, a Republican in her second term as state controller, has denied any criminal activity.

While voters have turned out many officials over the years, only one statewide elected official in Nevada history has been forced to step down as a direct result of a criminal investigation. The legislative impeachment process has never resulted in such officials leaving office.

Augustine considered but later dropped plans for a U.S. Senate run this year. She also has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Congress or lieutenant governor.

Before being elected controller in 1998, Augustine, a former Delta Airlines employee, represented a southern Nevada district in the state Assembly in 1993 and served in the state Senate in the 1995 and 1997 sessions.