CARSON CITY (Las Vegas Sun) -- Troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks will be banned from the Legislature on indefinite, paid leave, said Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, who chairs a select committee charged to determine whether Brooks is fit to serve.
An independent counsel will gather information about Brooks and bring a recommendation to the committee.
“It is time that we get to the bottom of this so we can move on and do what we’re tasked to do here,” Horne said. “The sooner we get done the better.”
Horne said he hopes the committee can convene again within the next week or two after legislative staff secures the independent counsel. Brooks should receive a letter from Horne banning him from the building and notifying him of the paid administrative leave, Horne said.
The rules governing the committee grant Horne the power to put Brooks on leave with pay, ban him from the building, and restrict him from performing legislative activities.
“No. 1, we are concerned about the safety of people in the legislative buildings as well as his ability to serve,” Horne said in justifying Brooks’ ban from legislative buildings. “It is more than a distraction here. ... It’s taking away from what we are supposed to be doing here.”
The rules also allow Horne to subpoena witnesses and charge them with contempt.
When that investigation has completed and the independent counsel brings recommendations to the committee, Brooks will receive notice and be able to testify before the committee.
Brooks' immediate future at the Legislature is in the hands of seven of his colleagues who comprise the committee.
Democrats Richard Carrillo and Jason Frierson, both from Las Vegas, and Dina Neal of North Las Vegas join Horne to form the majority on the committee. GOP Minority Leader Pat Hickey of Reno, Lynn Stewart of Henderson and Wesley Duncan of Las Vegas round out the rest of the committee.
They will decide whether to recommend expulsion to the full Assembly.
Brooks was arrested on counts of obstructing police and domestic battery on Saturday. Last month, he was arrested for threatening Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick and was found with a gun at the time of his arrest.
In the past month, Brooks has also been detained by police for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation at a Las Vegas hospital. He was in the hospital for five days before being released the week before session.
He earlier made erratic remarks during the first week of the Legislature before announcing he would be taking a leave of absence last week.
Brooks did not show up to the Legislature today and has not been present since this past week, when he announced his leave of absence.
The committee had originally intended to meet next week but moved its first meeting to Monday following Brooks’ latest arrest.
If the select committee decides to expel Brooks from the Legislature, state law says that the Clark County Commission would need to appoint a replacement from the same political party.
But they do not need to be in any hurry to fill the vacancy. Nevada law gives the county commission until the next regular or special session of the Nevada Legislature to make the appointment.
Republicans also sought to bring another matter before the committee. Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, was elected in 2012 to a represent a district in which a judge ruled he does not live.
But Assembly Democrats have taken no action against Martin, which has irritated some Republicans.
Stewart asked whether the committee could investigate Martin, and Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, was in the audience with a file of documents about Martin in his lap to see whether the committee would have jurisdiction over the case.
The rules of the committee say that the “chair must assign duties for the counsel which must include requiring the counsel to accept complaints and other information concerning members of the Assembly.”
Horne, however, said that the committee’s main duty is to examine and decided whether Brooks is fit to serve in the Legislature and sidelined the Martin issue.
“Should something arise to the level that would be distracting to this level of getting our work done, causing concern about the safety and welfare of the public that comes into the building and the legislators that come into the building, yes, at that time, I will take that into consideration,” he said.
The rules of the committee, which the committee adopted Monday, say that “the special independent counsel must conduct a preliminary investigation of complaints received to determine whether the Committee has jurisdiction over the matter.”
Horne, however, can change the rules anytime he wants. The rules give the committee chairman the power to “waive or suspend any provision of these rules” or make new rules.
-- Andrew Doughman / Las Vegas Sun