Recent revelations show that a state lawmaker was hired as the executive director of a non-profit just one month after voting to appropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars to that very same organization.
Better Nevada PAC Director of Operations John Burke tells us they open records requested communications between Democratic Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow and Arc of Nevada after it was revealed she voted to appropriate $250,000 dollars to the non-profit just one month before being named its executive director.
“We were curious about what happened here with Assemblywoman Gorelow because she took this position days after she made a crucial vote to give $250 thousand dollars in taxpayer appropriations to an organization that she had a role with,” said Better Nevada PAC Director of Operations John Burke.
Burke says the pro-Lombardo Better Nevada PAC requested that information knowing full well they would be denied.
“State legislators are completely exempt from open records requests which is not the case for the Governor, Attorney General, other statewide constitutional officers. So, they are held to a lower ethical standard, which is something we find really troubling, especially when these legislators are passing and considering laws that are very important to lives of all the communities of Nevada,” explained Burke.
The appropriation passed under Assembly Bill 525, or the Christmas tree bill, which earmarks tax dollars for various non-profits across the state. The Legislative Council Bureau tells us approximately 56 non-profits received appropriations. Arc Nevada serves citizens with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Vote Nevada Executive Director Dr. Sondra Cosgrove says that these stories happen more often than you’d think.
“I think the thing that we all notice is that at the end of the Legislative Session, the last two weeks, they literally suspend all rules. They’re allowed to make decisions without telling us what’s going on, they don’t have to do public notice, they can do kinds of things,” said Vote Nevada Executive Director Dr. Sondra Cosgrove
Technically what happened is not a violation, but Cosgrove says it will keep happening unless voters demand legislators to be out under open meeting and open record laws.
“If we don’t get any movement from the people who need to be regulated, because they’re going to need to change the law if they want to regulate themselves, then that’s where the initiative process comes in. That’s where we talk about doing a ballot question, and if enough of us think this is wrong, that’s what we should do,” said Cosgrove
The Legislative Council Bureau told us in a statement that Assemblywoman Gorelow satisfied the standards to make the vote, and she was not required to disclose information concerning her relationship with the non-profit.
We reached out to Assemblywoman Gorelow via email and she has not responded yet.
The following are excerpts from the Legislative Council Bureau’s statement to 2 News:
(1) AB 525 is a legislative measure of immense public importance because the Legislature’s appropriation of funds to approximately 56 nonprofit organizations for purposes relating to health, education, employment and other community services is a matter of immense statewide importance which generally impacts all citizens of this State while also having significant impacts on the general welfare and prosperity of this State; and
(2) Standing Rule No. 23 did not require any Legislators to make disclosures on the record or abstain from voting upon or advocating or opposing AB 525 because, like other legislative measures of immense statewide importance, “the very nature of such legislative measures presumptively makes the interests of every member of the [Legislature] no greater than the interests of every other citizen of this State, and therefore, the independence of judgment of members is not impeded by those interests and they are not required to abstain.” See, e.g., Senate Resolution No. 10, 75th Sess. (2009), Statutes of Nevada 2009, at pp. 3261-62; Assembly Resolution No. 10, 75th Sess. (2009), Statutes of Nevada 2009, at pp. 3276-77; Senate Resolution No. 3, 30th Spec. Sess. (2016), Statutes of Nevada 2016, 30th Spec. Sess., at pp. 75-77.
Consequently, it is the opinion of the LCB Legal Division that, during the consideration and passage of AB 525, a Legislator would not have satisfied the standards for a disqualifying conflict of interest under Standing Rule No. 23—and therefore would not have been required to make disclosures on the record or abstain from voting upon or advocating or opposing AB 525—if the Legislator, or a member of his or her household or immediate family, was serving as a member of a board of directors or other governing body, or was holding a position as an officer or employee, for any of the approximately 56 nonprofit organizations listed in the bill and receiving appropriations made by the Legislature.