Libel claimed in Governor text-message controversy
October 24, 2008
Gov. Jim Gibbons was hit Thursday with a retraction demand for alleged comments about a staffer who said she was forced from her job because he thought she leaked details about his private text-messaging on a state cell phone.
Mary Keating, represented by attorney Cal Dunlap, demanded similar retractions from her former employer, state budget chief Andrew Clinger, and from Gibbons spokesman Ben Kieckhefer.
Kieckhefer, speaking for himself, the governor and Clinger, denied they made any defamatory statements about Keating after she filed a Washoe County District Court lawsuit last week claiming violations of her rights and seeking unspecified damages.
Keating lost her job as state administrative services officer in mid-May. In that post she oversaw, among other things, Gibbons’ office expenditures.
Dunlap, who also represents first lady Dawn Gibbons in a pending divorce action filed by the governor, said that in Keating’s case Gibbons believed “she had leaked information to the press” and wanted his own “untrained and unqualified” staffers overseeing his office finances.
The lawsuit says one of Keating’s employees told her in May 2007 that Gibbons used his state cell phone to send more than 860 personal text messages over several weeks to a woman the governor has described as a longtime friend. She in turn told her boss, Clinger.
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When word of the text-messaging got out last June, Gibbons apologized for the activity and said he had reimbursed the state $130. He also denied the messages were “love notes.”
Kieckhefer has said Keating now works in the state Department of Health and Human Services, in a job with similar pay and with better protections against an abrupt dismissal.
In her previous job, Kieckhefer said Keating was subject to dismissal “at the pleasure” of the budget chief, and in moving to another area of state government “she never lost an hour’s worth of pay or benefits. She never lost anything.”