Las Vegas, NV – The Nevada Commission on Ethics has determined that Governor Joe Lombardo committed multiple ethics violations during his campaign for governor by improperly using his sheriff’s badge and uniform, according to documents released by the commission on Tuesday night.
The commission’s Executive Director, Ross Armstrong, has requested that Lombardo be subjected to a civil penalty of approximately $1.67 million, along with censure and the appointment of an ethics officer to oversee his office. Lombardo’s office has chosen not to comment on the filing, while his campaign lawyers argue that Armstrong’s actions are disproportionate to the alleged offenses.
Lombardo’s Misuse of His Sheriff’s Badge
The ethics commission investigation revealed that Lombardo utilized governmental time, property, and equipment to further his personal interests during his campaign. Numerous photos and advertisements featured Lombardo wearing his sheriff’s uniform and prominently displaying his badge. In fact, during his initial announcement of his gubernatorial bid on Fox, Lombardo wore a sheriff badge pin on his lapel, using his position as Sheriff as a central theme for his campaign, as per filings dated March 22.
According to Nevada state law, it is prohibited for a public officer or employee to exploit their government position to gain unwarranted privileges or advantages for themselves. Elizabeth Bassett, the commission’s Associate Counsel, noted that the use of a uniform and other insignia of office for campaign purposes has long been recognized as a violation of both ethics laws and commission precedent.
Willful Violations and Financial Gain
The commission determined that Lombardo’s violations were “willful” due to his failure to self-report or address the infractions either before or after complaints were lodged against him. Furthermore, the commission cited a 2021 article from the Nevada Independent where Lombardo’s campaign strategist emphasized the importance of voters being informed about his law enforcement background and work experience.
As a result of these findings, Lombardo was found to have financially benefited from the violations, as he was elected governor and now receives the corresponding salary and benefits. Financial disclosure reports reveal that Lombardo’s governor’s salary is $163,474, which represents a $30,000 decrease from his previous role as sheriff.
Defense Arguments and Impeachment Concerns
In response to the ethics complaint, Lombardo’s legal team filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the alleged violations were relatively inconsequential and centered around a small number of photographs featuring him in uniform. They argue that no state law explicitly forbids a sheriff from using their uniform and badge in campaign materials. Furthermore, Lombardo’s attorneys criticized the executive director’s mention of impeachment as “absurd.”
However, Armstrong clarified that if the commission finds even a single willful violation against Lombardo, it is mandatory under ethics law for that information to be shared with the speaker of the Assembly and the majority leader of the Senate. Subsequently, the Legislature holds the power to determine appropriate sanctions, which could potentially include impeachment.
Upcoming Public Meeting
The Nevada Commission on Ethics has scheduled a public meeting for Tuesday, June 13, to discuss the ethics complaint case and consider relevant motions. The outcome of this meeting will shed further light on the potential consequences Governor Joe Lombardo may face for the ethics violations he has been found guilty of committing.
Source – reviewjournal