Impeached Nevada controller is comatose following heart attack
CARSON CITY (AP) – Kathy Augustine, Nevada’s impeached state controller, suffered a massive heart attack at her Reno home over the weekend and is in a coma at an area hospital, family members said Monday.
Augustine’s husband, Chaz Higgs, blamed campaign stress for Augustine’s heart attack. A critical care nurse, Higgs administered CPR and summoned an ambulance early Saturday after realizing Augustine, 50, who he thought was asleep in their bedroom, wasn’t breathing and had no pulse.
“Stress. I think that is probably the factor. She has been complaining about it during the whole campaign,” Higgs said at a news conference, describing the Republican controller’s heavy schedule of events in her uphill bid for the job of state treasurer.
“It doesn’t look good,” said Phil Alfano, Augustine’s brother, adding that Augustine, while apparently capable of breathing on her own, was on a respirator at Washoe Medical Center in Reno. Higgs said she is comatose and in stable, critical condition.
Washoe Medical Center spokeswoman Alexia Bratiotis confirmed that Augustine was in critical condition. She said the hospital’s definition of critical is that “vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. The patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.”
Family members said Augustine had no history of heart trouble or other serious health problems, although her husband said in the last few days Augustine had complained of a stomach ache and heartburn.
Deputy Controller Bill Reinhart said the controller’s office would continue regular operations. Steve George, spokesman for Gov. Kenny Guinn, said Reinhart is in charge of the controller’s office at this point and no decision had been made on whether the governor would have to declare the office vacant and name a replacement.
Augustine, the only constitutional officer in Nevada history to have been impeached and convicted, was term-limited and couldn’t seek a third four-year term as controller.
Augustine had conceded she had “unfavorables” to overcome in her efforts to stay in public office as state treasurer. She faced fund-raising difficulties and had been urged by state Republican Party Chairman Paul Adams to not embarrass the party by seeking another elective office.
Impeached by the Assembly for using state equipment for her 2002 campaign, Augustine was censured but not removed from office by the state Senate. She was acquitted of two other charges, including using a state computer and staff to help her win a second four-year term as controller.
In September 2004, she was fined $15,000 by the state Ethics Commission after admitting to three willful violations of state ethics law. Augustine had been making $500-a-month payments until last November, when she paid off the balance.
In discussing her political ambitions, Augustine had said she decided an admission to the ethics violations was better than the threatened alternative of criminal charges through a grand jury indictment sought by the attorney general’s office.
Had she been indicted, Augustine would have had to leave office pending resolution of a criminal case. By admitting the ethics violations, she had to go through the impeachment proceedings but was able to stay in office.
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