Ethics case against 2 Nevada legislators resurrected
Ethics charges against Assemblymen Ira Hansen and Jim Wheeler, the latter of whom represents Douglas County, aren’t dead yet.
The two won a ruling from the Nevada Supreme Court last June that the Ethics Commission had to dismiss the complaint charging they misused their offices to influence the case charging Hansen violated trapping regulations.
That ruling by a three justice panel was a split decision 2-1 supported by Justices Jim Hardesty and Ron Parraguirre but opposed by Kris Pickering.
But in an order signed Dec. 20, Chief Justice Michael Cherry granted reconsideration by the full seven-member high court, thus resurrecting the ethics case against the two.
The dispute dates back to November 2013 when Hansen was issued four citations by the Nevada Department of Wildlife accusing him of setting animal traps too close to public roadways.
While that fight played out, Wheeler — at Hansen’s request — asked the Legislative Counsel Bureau for an opinion on whether “box” and “snare” traps were among the devices prohibited within 200 feet of a public road. That opinion stated those types of traps weren’t illegal near roads.
Carson City resident Fred Voltz then filed the ethics complaint against the two charging they used their official positions to benefit Hansen’s defense of the trapping citations.
When the commission refused to dismiss the complaint, they petitioned for judicial review of the ethics charges and the district court granted review.
The ethics commission’s chairman and executive director appealed. But they did so without getting the go ahead from the full commission, which didn’t grant that approval until later.
The majority of the three-judge high court panel agreed with Hansen and Wheeler approval by the full ethics commission was needed to file an appeal and that doing so without an open vote violated the open meeting law.
They agreed that, therefore, the notice of appeal was defective because the commission — legally the client — didn’t authorize it.
But this most recent order makes it clear the fight isn’t over yet. Cherry’s order grants the commission a hearing on the next available calendar where all members of the court will decide whether the ethics complaint goes forward.
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