Former ethics commissioner questions $1.6 million fine proposed for Gov. Lombardo case, hearing gets delayed

Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 2:24 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A Nevada Commission on Ethics hearing scheduled to address complaints against Gov. Joe Lombardo has been delayed, as one former ethics commissioner questions the unprecedented $1.6 million fine that could be the largest in state history.

The executive director of the NCOE tells FOX5, any criticism is “premature” and members plan to “make a determination based on the evidence and the law.”

The hearing, set for June 13, was postponed after the Governor sought a continuance on the basis that “not all of the eligible Commissioners can appear in person at the hearing.” Lombardo argued that “every eligible member must participate in rendering a decision in the Consolidated Matter.”

It added that all commissioners should participate due to the “unprecedented” relief sought in the complaint against the Governor, including a censure, the designation of an Ethics Officer within the governor’s office and a fine of $1,665,000.

“Governor Lombardo respectfully submits that the full Commission should participate in the adjudicatory hearing of the ethics charges against Governor Lombardo in order to promote public confidence in the fairness of this proceeding,” his June 9 motion for a continuance said.

According to court documents, the Executive Director opposed the delay on the basis that “Governor Lombardo has not shown good cause” as required by law. It also quoted Lombardo’s own filing as stating that “a three-member panel would constitute a quorum necessary to render a decision.”

The Executive Director also pointed out that, as the case proceeds and is delayed further, the Governor will be asked to reappoint or replace Commissioners whose terms expire, which the Director called “an issue of the appearance of commissioners are asked to participate in a hearing regarding the individual who appointed them.”

Lobardo’s request for a delay was granted, and the exact date of the hearing was continued until the next meeting of the Nevada Commission on Ethics. The Executive Director will poll the Commissioners to determine their availability to attend the next scheduled meeting in July.

The ruling concluded by stating that “further delay may result in prejudice to the Parties, and any further requests for continuances are discouraged.”


If the commission agrees to the proposed $1.6 million fine, it would be the largest ever issued by the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

Assemblyman Philip P.K. O’O’Neill who served on the commission from 2016 to 2020, tweeted out concerns all surrounding the lack of precedent for such fines, but said he would reserve comment on the actual investigation.

The investigation on page 223 recommends a $25,000 fine per violation for most of the 68 alleged violations.

“I strongly support and believe in our ethics commission. We need an ethics commission. We had incidents come up before us, which were much more grievous: people working for the state or various local government promoting their own businesses, giving themselves business because they were able to. We did basically minimal fines,” O’Neill said.

“That’s what I look for in consistency,” he said.

O’Neill did state that he believes members take their jobs seriously and weigh decisions heavily. Eight members, four Republicans and our Democrats, are appointed to the NCOE.

The NCOE issued the following response: “The Commission has yet to take action on this matter and so the criticism is premature. There are two competing theories of the case before the Commission, they will hear legal arguments from both sides and make a determination based on the evidence and the law.”

In 2019, various staff members of the LVCVA were fined $49,000. Violations included using airline gift cards for personal use. The fine ended up being a “stipulated agreement,” according to the NCOE.

The largest fine for an individual was in a Board of Massage Therapy case. The penalty was $25,000, per a stipulated agreement.

The NCOE released its “2022 Campaign-Related Investigated Cases” where others were accused of “willful” or “nonwillful” violations of ethics laws.

In 2019, Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro faced an ethics investigation over use of his badge during a campaign. The case was eventually dismissed.

“Maybe the Legislature has to look into this, and actually define what is or isn’t allowed in some of these political races. Maybe that’s a fault of ours,” he said, noting previous debates on violations of department policies versus violations of state statutes.