First lady Dawn Gibbons has challenged Gov. Jim Gibbons' bid to keep their divorce trial private, contending Wednesday that he's involved with another woman and relied on an unconstitutional law in getting a judge to seal the proceedings.
Attorney Cal Dunlap, representing Dawn Gibbons, said in a motion filed with Washoe County Family Court Judge Frances Doherty in Reno that the state law cited in sealing the divorce files violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Nevada Constitution.
Dunlap also said Gibbons wants to end his marriage of nearly 22 years because of "his infatuation and involvement" with someone else. He added Gibbons' "fawning involvement" with the other woman has included making her "his frequent bar, lunch, dinner and even grocery store companion."
"This case is the poster child of why trials must be public," Dunlap said, adding that under the state law used to seal the case Dawn Gibbons "has no voice to object to this covert judicial action, nor can she make public the conduct of elected officials."
"The public interest is heightened when the subject of interest is one of the most, if not the most, scandal-ridden governor in the history of this state," Dunlap said.
Gary Silverman, the attorney handling the first-term Republican governor's divorce case, declined to comment on Dunlap's motion challenging an order by Carson City District Judge Bill Maddox, who sealed the case prior to its transfer to Judge Doherty.
"The governor considers this a personal and private matter and will not comment on the contents of the filing," Silverman said. "He already has made the only public comment he intends to make on this matter."
Gibbons has denied having a girlfriend, and wrote to an Elko newspaper harshly criticizing its May 21 editorial that stated, among other things, that he has been involved with the wife of a Reno doctor.
Gibbons said the woman, who wasn't named, "has been a friend of mine for over 15 years and there is nothing inappropriate about that friendship. Saying I am 'involved' with her certainly leads readers to believe something that is absolutely not true."
In his letter printed in the Elko Daily Free Press over the weekend, Gibbons said the newspaper's editorial was "absolutely out of the bounds of good taste and common decency."
Dunlap's bid for open divorce proceedings and Gibbons' comments to the Elko newspaper follow a formal demand, filed in court last week by Dawn Gibbons, for a detailed explanation from the governor on why he feels they're incompatible.
In his divorce complaint filed May 2, Gibbons listed incompatibility as grounds for ending the marriage of nearly 22 years. The complaint also states the "cause of action for divorce" occurred in Reno, but offers no specifics.
Dawn Gibbons, 54, also has proposed a compromise so that Gibbons, 63, could move back into the Governor's Mansion in Carson City and she would stay in a guest house on the grounds so she can continue her duties as first lady.
Gibbons has asked the judge to award him sole occupancy of the taxpayer-supported mansion and award his wife occupancy of the couple's Reno home, where he's been saying in recent months. Dunlap has said Dawn Gibbons wants to sell the Reno house because it's too big for her to maintain by herself.
State law requires the governor live in Carson City. Gibbons has described his move to Reno as temporary, and a spokesman has said there's no law violation.