Legislators concerned about lengthy process for impeachment trial for state controller

Legislative leaders say they're concerned that an impeachment proceeding for state Controller Kathy Augustine, expected to start in mid-November unless she resigns, could last weeks or months.

"Obviously, there is concern," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. "It has the potential to butt up against the regular session and some of our pre-session hearings."

"We need it to be short, and it can be with the cooperation of the controller," added Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson. "It is in her hands."

But Perkins also said legislators are prepared to work into the holiday season if necessary.

"Everybody understands it is our job and duty, and we will be there to do it," he said.

The legislative leaders met with staff members Thursday to discuss procedures and information they will need before initiating impeachment proceedings against Augustine.

Gov. Kenny Guinn has said he'll call a special legislative session for the impeachment proceedings in mid-November. The lawmakers' regular session starts Feb. 7, and pre-session hearings start Jan. 19.

Augustine was fined a record $15,000 by the state Ethics Commission on Sept. 22 after she signed a statement admitting to three willful violations of ethics laws.

Among other things, she admitted causing her former executive assistant to do re-election work on state time.

Under Nevada law, when a constitutional officer admits willful violations of the law, the case automatically goes to the Legislature for impeachment proceedings. No constitutional officer has been impeached in the state's 140-year history.

On Wednesday, an attorney for Augustine hinted that impeachment proceedings could prove lengthy.

Augustine, a Republican, has rebuffed requests by Guinn, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., and other top politicians that she quit now to avoid further embarrassment and spare taxpayers the cost of a special session.

Despite his concern about a long impeachment session, Raggio noted the Legislature controls the impeachment process, "not the courts, as long as due process is followed."

Raggio, who is an attorney, said members will determine what evidence or information is needed, not Augustine. But he refused to speculate that members might consider only a limited amount of evidence and quickly impeach Augustine after two or three days.


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