RENO, Nev. (AP) - Emails to and from former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, who went through a bitter divorce and allegations of infidelity while in office, offer a glimpse into the personal struggles of the former governor and rifts within his administration.
About 100 emails were obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal after a four-year legal battle over whether the communications were public under the state's open records law.
The newspaper reported Friday that the correspondence from 2008 reveals a troubled man who received support from numerous close friends, as well as a state leader who was well-connected with many
powerful and wealthy people.
The Reno Republican was governor from 2007 through 2010, when he became the first governor in state history to lose his party's primary election when he ran for re-election.
Much of his administration's emails suggested a dysfunctional management structure and tension among high-ranking staff members.
Among the documents released were emails that detailed a group of confidants who checked in on the governor in 2008 as he and his longtime wife, Dawn Gibbons, announced their separation and divorce.
After the governor filed for divorce, Dawn Gibbons accused him
of abandoning their marriage because of his "infatuation and involvement" with the wife of a Reno doctor.
Perry Di Loreto, a longtime Reno community leader and developer in northern Nevada, stayed in constant email contact with Gibbons in early 2008.
"Just checking to see how you are doing," Di Loreto messaged Gibbons on May 6, 2008.
"I think I'm doing ok," Gibbons wrote back the next day. "Every morning now I get up and check the newspaper to see if I doing ok, or coming apart at the seams. Thank you for asking, it means a lot to me to know you care enough to ask. Anyway, I know I will get through all this and be a stronger Governor in the end."
Di Loreto also organized numerous events for Gibbons in April 2008, including dinner with Barron Hilton, CEO of Hilton Hotels and owner of the Flying M Ranch, where aviation adventurer Steve Fossett was last seen before he took off for a short pleasure flight and disappeared on Sept. 3, 2007. Wreckage from the plane crash and some of Fossett's belongings were discovered about a year later near Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
In an email to De Loreto on April 22, 2008, Gibbons said, "Right now I am having a hamburger at Red Robbin and I am fully aware of having dinner right now. But last Friday is another issue. I have sworn off gin for a while, a long while. Or at least until the party out at the ranch.
"Thank you so much for putting the event together with Skip, Ron, and Baron Hilton (I can remember some things, but not your joke or dinner ;-)"
Emails from others also acknowledged the divorce.
"I am saddened by your recent announcement," Mendy Elliott, director of the state's Department of Business and Industry, wrote to the governor on May 2, 2008. In the email, she invited the governor to have dinner with her and her husband.
"If there is anything I can do just let me know," Elliott said.
The collection of emails contained few from Gibbons' estranged wife, Dawn. But it did include one that inspired a sharp response from the governor.
"I am with Jimmy right now and he wants to make sure you give me his check to put in the bank," Dawn Gibbons wrote on April 10, 2008. She went on to scold him for failing to leave their son's mail on the kitchen counter and for opening his mail.
Gibbons responded: "Please do not send your personal emails to me on the State of Nevada system."
The other emails between the first couple appeared mostly cordial and professional, referencing official events and communications. The first lady signed at least one of them, "Warmest Nevada Regards, Dawn."
On state business, the voice of the governor in emails often seemed to come from Dianne Cornwall, the governor's chief operating officer.
In early 2008, Cornwall maintained continual communication through emails with Gibbons and Michael Dayton, the governor's chief of staff at that time. She organized staff meetings, events and the governor's travel plans while struggling to keep everyone on track. Cornwall and Dayton often bickered over scheduling and plans.
The emails suggest a troubled management structure that eventually resulted in Dayton's dismissal and Cornwall's transfer to the Department of Business and Industry. Gov. Brian Sandoval dismissed Cornwall when he took office in 2011.
The Reno Gazette-Journal first asked Gibbons for six months of email correspondence in 2008 under Nevada's public records law. His office refused, claiming those contacts were confidential. His office also would not provide explanations for why the messages were protected or privileged, and the newspaper sued.
Carson City District Judge James Russell found in the paper's favor, but the attorney general's office appealed. In December, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed Russell's ruling.
Beryl Love, executive editor of the Gazette-Journal, said the protracted legal fight was needed to establish that official correspondence is subject to the state's open record law.
"Documents, even emails, should be open to inspection unless a specific reason is given for confidentiality. But the ruling also serves as a reminder to elected leaders that they should conduct the state's business in an open, transparent way.
"Our democracy depends on it."
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