Former Southern Nevada Water Authority chief Pat Mulroy was recently appointed to the board of gaming giant Wynn Resorts Limited.
In taking the seat, Mulroy gave up her position as a board member of the powerful Nevada Gaming Commission.
But there was a hitch.
Nevada law says a member of the Gaming Commission board has to sit through a one-year “cooling off” period before sitting on the board of a private gaming company.
But in her case, Mulroy didn’t have to wait a year. The Nevada Commission on Ethics said the one-year cooling off period didn't apply to her.
The commission said one of the reasons was Mulroy wasn't a paid employee of Wynn Resorts and Nevada code applies to those who leave the Gaming Commission to become gaming employees.
State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, questions that reasoning noting she is getting compensated by Wynn Resorts. The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted Wynn board members earned an average $349,000 in compensation.
He says the Ethics Commission abandoned its duty by voting to allow Mulroy to avoid the one-year-waiting period.
"The reality is this is Nevada and in Nevada we tend to do what the industry wants," Segerblom told KNPR's State of Nevada. "The laws tend to be bent for the rich and the powerful and in this case we're dealing with both."
The lawmaker doesn't question Mulroy's need and ability to work for another industry he just believes the situation does not follow the law.
"I'm not holding anything against Pat or Steve Wynn but the reality is you have somebody who has been regulating Steve Wynn, albeit for a short period of time, who then all of the sudden says, 'wait a minute I can make more money working for Steve Wynn than I can regulating him," Segerblom said.
Segerblom thinks someone from the Attorney General's office could do something about this but, "who is going to commit political suicide and oppose someone as powerful as Steven Wynn?"
But Las Vegas attorney Peter Bernhard, who represented Mulroy before the Ethics Commission, says the Ethics Commission did its duty -- it considered state law, which outlines special circumstances that would allow Mulroy to move from the Gaming Commission to the Wynn board.
"The commission in this case acted properly in evaluating the statutory factors, which include the best interest of the public, the continued ethical integrity of state government, and the requirements of the ethics code," Bernhard said.
He also said the commission looked at the difference between a Gaming Commission commissioner, which Mulroy was, and the Gaming Control Board.
"The Gaming Control Board clearly has greater access on a day-to-day basis to all of the aspects of the industry whereas commissioners do not have access to the GCB database," he explained. "They also only decide matters brought before them by the control board."
And to avoid even the appearance of violating the law, he added, Mulroy will not vote on or partake in any Nevada gaming issues while sitting on the Wynn Resorts board for one year.
Segerblom thinks this issue might be reason enough to end funding to the state Ethics Commission.
"To me, if you have rules laid out by the Legislature then whether the ethics commission is cost effective is not clear," he said.
However, David Fott, political science professor at UNLV, said the ethics commission is worthwhile.
"Even if the commission on ethics is imperfect, it is better to have it as an entitity that raises a standard than to have no entitity raising the standard," Fott said.
For Segerblom, the power for accountability still lies with the people.
"This is a small state with limited resources, at the end of the day, the voters can vote people in and out," he said, "That's really the only effective ethics process in my opinion."
State Senator Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas; David Fott, political science professor, UNLV; Peter Bernhard, attorney
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