Carson City, NV – Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo has taken legal action against the Nevada Commission on Ethics, contesting the $20,000 fine and censure he received for wearing his official uniform and badge during his political campaign. Lombardo asserts that these penalties were unjust and arbitrary.
The lawsuit, filed in the First Judicial District Court in Carson City, also raises questions about the authority of the ethics commission itself, arguing that its actions infringe upon the separation of powers principle outlined in the Nevada Constitution.
Governor Lombardo’s legal action seeks several outcomes, including the invalidation of the previous fine and censure, a halt to any further investigations by the commission into his actions, and a reversal of the commission’s original opinion.
The ethical controversy arose in July when Lombardo was found to have violated a law prohibiting candidates from utilizing government resources for their personal political campaigns.
Initially, Ross Armstrong, the executive director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics, had alleged that Lombardo had committed 68 ethics law violations, all stemming from 34 social media posts, which could have led to proposed fines totalling $1.67 million.
However, the commission eventually ruled that there was only one violation per image of Lombardo in his sheriff’s badge and uniform, not one for each instance the image was used in campaign materials.
During the hearing, Attorney Colby Williams, representing Lombardo, argued that the role of a county sheriff is a 24/7 commitment and that it was widely known that Lombardo held this position. Williams asserted that Lombardo had a First Amendment right to inform the public of his elected role. Additionally, Williams contended that the relevant state statutes were vague, and Lombardo had not willfully violated them.
While the lawsuit does challenge the ethics commission’s opinion as erroneous, arbitrary, and an abuse of discretion, its central focus is on questioning the legal authority of the commission itself.
The lawsuit asserts, “The legislature appoints half the Commissioners who serve on the Commission. In doing so, the Ethics Law deprives the Governor of his exclusive power to see that the laws are faithfully executed and, in turn, violates the separation of powers doctrine.”
As this legal battle unfolds, it brings to the forefront questions about the balance of power and authority within the state of Nevada and the application of ethics laws to elected officials.
Credits: Fox Reno
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