Judge: Nevada governor Jim Gibbons can be questioned
March 31, 2009
RENO ” Gov. Jim Gibbons can be questioned by lawyers in a civil suit filed by a former administrator who claims she was improperly fired from the governor’s office, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Robert McQuaid said attorneys for Mary Keating will be allowed to take pretrial testimony from Gibbons and his budget director, Andrew Clinger, after the legislative session concludes.
“I think the governor gets deposed in this case at some point,” McQuaid said.
McQuaid rejected arguments by Senior Deputy Attorney General Stephen Quinn that Gibbons should be insulated from giving a deposition unless Keating’s lawyers can show the governor was personally involved in Keating’s dismissal and the information they seek is unavailable from any other source.
McQuaid said he didn’t want to “hamstring” the plaintiffs by denying them an opportunity to “look the governor in the eye” and question him on allegations that Gibbons was behind Keating’s firing last May because he thought she leaked details of private text-messages he sent to another woman on a state phone.
Gibbons later apologized for the more than 800 text messages and reimbursed the state $130.
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Gibbons’ lawyers in the attorney general’s office said in court documents that Keating was terminated because of “repeated rude and discourteous treatment of others.”
Keating, a certified public accountant and 25-year state employee, has since taken a job at another state agency for similar pay.
McQuaid also deleted 10 lines from Keating’s original complaint that refer to Gibbons’ pending divorce from first lady Dawn Gibbons.
Quinn argued in court documents that the references were “immaterial, impertinent and scandalous,” and made for the sole purpose of “harassing and embarrassing the governor.”
Keating’s lawyers, Cal Dunlap and Monique Laxalt, argued that the material was relevant because it showed Gibbons’ alleged motivation for retaliating against Keating.
Dawn Gibbons, who is represented by Dunlap in the divorce proceedings, has accused the governor of being involved with another woman, court records show.
McQuaid left other mentions of Gibbons’ divorce in the complaint, but struck portions concerning allegations of other women in his life.
The judge said while the divorce itself may be material to the Keating case, “Why do you need the rest of that stuff in there?” he asked. “It doesn’t add anything to the story.”