Nevada workplace safety officials are investigating a complaint alleging that Assemblyman Steven Brooks, recently arrested for allegedly threatening Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, is "an unstable and dangerous employee" at the state Legislature.
Chris Davis of the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has the authority to investigate workplace-safety complaints and take action against employers, notified Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs of the complaint in a Feb. 4 letter asking for a report on how LCB is handling the situation involving Brooks, D-North Las Vegas.
Combs responded to the letter on Monday, saying the LCB and Legislative Police have taken a variety of actions to ensure employees and others in the building are safe.
The request for an investigation of safety hazards at the Legislature states, "There is an unstable and dangerous employee that has been allowed to remain at his building despite many of our colleagues' concerns regarding his frightening behavior, history of violence, known threats against other employees, arrests, psychiatric commitments and multiple recent instances of brandishing deadly weapons."
The unidentified employee who filed the complaint said that the issues haven't been resolved, "even though many of us have continued to express that we do not feel safe coming to work."
The complaint was filed under NRS618, which says every Nevada employer "has a duty to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards."
The response by Combs came just hours before Assembly Majority Leader William Horne announced that Brooks had been banned from the building pending resolution of the situation - a move that helps resolve the complaint. Combs said officers met Brooks at the Reno-Tahoe Airport on Monday night when he arrived from Las Vegas and served him with notice he was no longer allowed in the Legislative Building.
In his response to OSHA, Combs said the case isn't like most other complaints about an employee being a danger to co-workers.
"It is important to recognize that Assemblyman Brooks is an elected official and not an employee of the LCB or of the Nevada Assembly," he wrote. "Therefore, he cannot be fired, suspended or otherwise disciplined in the same manner as an employee."
Brooks understands that some employees are concerned about reports of his behavior and voluntarily agreed to certain measures to ease those concerns, Combs said. Those, according to the letter, are that a Legislative Police officer accompany him when he is in the building. His key-card has been deactivated so he can't enter the Legislative Building after hours without contacting Legislative Police.
"Assemblyman Brooks further allowed the legislative police officers to take whatever precautionary measures they requested to ensure that he is not armed when he enters the building," the response states.
For employees most worried about Brooks, panic alarm buttons have been installed at their desks, Combs said.
Because Brooks announced on the Assembly floor that he planned to take a three-week medical leave, Combs said he doesn't expect Brooks will be in the building during that time.
In addition, he said that following Brooks' most recent arrest on domestic violence and obstructing police charges, "we will need to evaluate whether any additional measures are necessary to protect employees and others in the Legislative Building."
Brooks was first arrested before the session began Feb. 4 for allegedly threatening a public officer - Speaker Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. After that, he came to police attention again in an incident at his grandmother's home involving a sword, which police confiscated. He was ordered held for psychiatric evaluation after that incident, then released. The latest domestic violence charge came early Sunday after an incident involving his estranged wife.
The Select Committee charged with investigating Brooks' conduct has promised to move quickly. After adopting rules that gave its chairman, Horne, the power to bar Brooks from the building, Horne did just that. But Brooks again ignited concerns among employees and others in the building by flying to Reno and saying he intended to go to the Legislature on Tuesday.
As of late afternoon, he had not shown up there. Police indicated that if he did, he would be arrested on suspicion of trespassing.
Committee investigating Brooks adopts rules
The Select Committee charged with recommending what to do about the conduct of North Las Vegas Assemblyman Steven Brooks Monday adopted rules for conducting the investigation that include giving the chairman powers to exclude Brooks from serving at least temporarily.
The rules read into the record by legislative counsel, include allowing chairman Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, to put the member being investigated on leave and to order that he be prevented from coming into the legislative building.
Horne took no such action Monday. He adjourned the meeting after just eight minutes.
Brooks put more urgency into the select committee's work over the weekend when he was arrested in the wee hours Sunday on charges of misdemeanor battery against his estranged wife and obstructing an officer.
Those charges could net Brooks up to two years in prison. But he was released on $4,000 bail several hours after the incident.
The Attorney General's office is handling the original charges that Brooks threatened the life of Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick. He is out of jail on $100,000 bond in that case.
But the police report alleges that Brooks claimed during the wrestling match that preceded his arrest that he had the officer's gun. He was subdued by two officers and taken into custody.
Those charges are within the control of the Clark County District Attorney's office, not the attorney general or the Legislature itself. No decision on whether those charges will be prosecuted has been announced.
The Select Committee, however, doesn't need to wait for authorities in Southern Nevada to act. Under the Nevada Constitution, the Assembly can, by a two-thirds vote, expel him if they believe that drastic action is necessary. It has never been done in state history.
The Assembly could also vote on lesser penalties including granting him an extended medical leave of absence while he receives treatment.
The Select Committee of four Democrats and three Republicans was empanelled to investigate the situation and make recommendations to the full Assembly.
Horne has indicated that he intends to get that job done quickly.
"I don't want this to drone on for weeks and weeks," he said in the press conference announcing the Select Committee. "We are looking forward to getting the work done we were meant to do up here. This is taking away from that."
The committee's recommendations, Horne said, could range all the way from no action to expulsion.