Nevada Ethics Commission is Intoxicated With Their Power
Daily Sparks Tribune
December 5, 1999
by Steve MillerIt all started when I requested the Nevada Ethics Commission's "opinion" about Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones using her mayoral title to promote competitive-to-Nevada casinos in Detroit while not disclosing that two companies she held stock in -- Mirage and Circus Circus -- were actively bidding for licenses in Detroit at the same time as her promotional visit.
I now believe that I accidentally delved into an area that was politically off limits -- at least in Nevada where casinos like Mirage and Circus Circus are king. Maybe I should have realized that their lust to expand into other jurisdictions, and their chosen spokeswoman - Mayor Jan Jones -- were not to be questioned.
The Chairwoman of the Ethics Commission at the July 17, 1998, hearing was Reno Attorney Mary Boetsch, Governor Bob Miller's appointee.
Ms. Boetsch is a close associate of Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Pappa. Del Pappa is a close associate of former Mayor Jones. I should have seen the writing on the wall.
As the hearing opened, veteran Commissioner Joni Wines disclosed that she is a close personal friend of mine, but that she could remain objective and would participate in the hearing. Commission attorney Louis Ling proceeded to berate Wines for wanting to participate, but Wines told Ling that he had no right to tell her what to do.
Then Chairwoman Boetsch told Wines that she would be sitting in the seat occupied by Jones if she did not abstain. In other words, Wines would be brought before the commission for judgment if she insisted on participating in a hearing requested by her friend. I began seeing the deck being stacked against me.
Joni Wines told the commission that if she were ever to be brought before them on an ethics Opinion Request, they could not vote on her case because they were all her close personal friends. Commissioner Wines then recused.
Boetsch opened the hearing by chastising me for speaking to the press about my Opinion Request. She said the document was confidential and I had no right to release such information, especially so close to an election. I argued that such Requests for Opinion were ruled public documents by a Federal Court, can no longer be sealed, that they are public from the time of filing. I had every right to discuss the information.
The Chairwoman continued criticizing the timing of my Opinion Request in the middle of the gubernatorial election in which Jones was a candidate, asking me why I chose that time. I answered that I did not control the commission's agenda -- she did -- and that I had no control over the timing of her hearing -- only she could schedule the agenda and could have waited until after the election. She asked the question again. I requested the stenographer read back my previous answer.
Boetsch went on to tersely state that she intended to carefully scrutinize and limit any new evidence I wished to present. She told me that new information would only be allowed if it were, in her opinion, "relevant, non-redundant, and not personal opinion," otherwise she would "cut off" my testimony.
I reminded the Chairwoman and her commission that I was in Reno voluntarily at my own expense to bring before them a politician who often chose not to disclose her personal conflicts of interests, and that I deserved to be treated with more professionalism and courtesy for being a good citizen. I also informed the Chairwoman that I had much more experience than she in chairing public hearings and that she needed to be objective. I politely stated that I would not tolerate having my four-minute presentation of new and relevant information "cut off" for any reason. I asked if I could proceed with the opening statement.
Again the Chairwoman said that she intended to cut me off if I did not offer new information. I replied that all of the information I wished to present was new, and again asked if I may proceed. Boetsch repeated her threat to cut me off. I responded that I only needed four-minutes, and that was all. The Chairwoman became more agitated and repeated her threat a fifth time. The commissioners sat stoically. Jones sat smiling. I was getting nowhere.
Boetsch's rude and unprofessional behavior had become so discouraging that I decided to show my feelings with action instead of words. I had shown proper decorum but words had failed. I stood up, gathered my documents, and silently exited her hearing.
In the hallway I was met by the Reno press. I told them I had just witnessed a Kangaroo Court. I said that I fully expected Jones to be arbitrarily and capriciously excused. I was soon proven correct.
The commission promptly dismissed my Request. Then, in the presence of Jones and her aide Cathy Hanson, voted to fine me $2,500 for filing what they called a "frivolous" Request for their Opinion.
Immediately following the hearing, Hanson called the media to tell them I had been fined. Several news stories followed in which Boetsch was quoted making disparaging remarks about me. I did not dignify her statements with a response, at least not yet.
Then I received a requested document from the Washoe County office of the Nevada Highway Patrol. I waited for Boetsch to make her next move.
No communications followed from the commission for 9 months. Then 2 weeks before the spring Las Vegas City Council election in which I was a candidate, the commission released a story to the Las Vegas Review Journal. The Ethics Commission had issued their official "Opinion," a document authored by Boetsch, and was now actively seeking payment of the fine.
I then realized what was the true mission of the Nevada Ethics Commission. They were a political hatchet used to kill the messengers who expose certain corrupt politicians.
Upon reading of the Chairwoman's "Opinion" in the RJ, on April 26, 1999 I filed this response with the Secretary of the Nevada Commission on Ethics:
I have received your "Opinion No. 9842" in the middle of my campaign for Las Vegas City Council. Your timing was of no surprise after witnessing the political favors you granted Mayor Jan Jones on the eleven occasions she appeared before you. Now you are at it again!
I am at a loss of words to express my disgust at receiving an "Opinion" from a person like you. I am especially disgusted when I remember your "Arrest Report and Declaration of Probable Cause" dated March 26,1997.
I am vehemently opposed to people like you being on public boards -- or on public roads -- after being arrested for a crime as serious as Drunken Driving. Furthermore, you lied to Nevada Highway Patrol officer R. M. Smith on the night of your arrest according to his official report. Case No. 6985949.
You had the gall to tell him that you had not been drinking, then changed your story! (BURRRP!) Why you chose to remain on the Ethics Commission after that night in 1997 completely baffles me. How dare you pass judgement on the ethics of others!
Because the "Opinion'" you sent me had your (BURRRP) signature on it, and since I am a staunch supporter of the strengthening of Drunken Driving laws, I will place your stupid "Opinion" in the closest appropriate receptacle and pull the handle.
Since I mailed the above letter,
I have received no further communication from the Nevada Commission on
Steve Miller, as a former Las Vegas City Councilman, was the author and Sponsor of the City of Las Vegas Ethics in Government Law. Visit his website at: http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com
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