CARSON CITY, Nev. – Nevada's governor, already facing a lawsuit from a woman claming he threatened to rape her, is now being sued by a government staffer who claims she was forced from her old job because he thought she was leaking information about his personal use of a state cell phone.
The woman says one of her employees told her last year that Gov. Jim Gibbons used his state cell phone to send more than 860 personal text messages over several weeks. The plaintiff, Mary Keating, then told her boss, state budget chief Andrew Clinger.
When word of the text-messaging got out in June, Gibbons apologized for the activity and said he had reimbursed the state $130. He also denied the messages were "love notes" to the estranged wife of a Reno doctor.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Washoe County District Court by Cal Dunlap, who also represents first lady Dawn Gibbons in a pending divorce action filed by the governor.
Dunlap said Gibbons believed Keating — a longtime state worker who in mid-May lost her job as administrative services officer overseeing, among other things, Gibbons' office expenditures — "had leaked information to the press" and wanted his own "untrained and unqualified" staffers overseeing his office finances.
The lawsuit alleges violations of Keating's rights and seeks unspecified damages.
Gibbons spokesman Ben Kieckhefer said there was no basis for Keating's lawsuit. He said she is now working in the state Department of Health and Human Services, in a job with similar pay and with better protections against an abrupt dismissal.
In her previous job, Kieckhefer said Keating was subject to dismissal "at the pleasure" of the budget chief, and that in moving to another area of state government "she never lost an hour's worth of pay or benefits. She never lost anything."
In the lawsuit, Dunlap says Keating had no idea why Clinger ordered her to clean out her desk. He also says her conduct in telling Clinger about Gibbons' text messaging "was consistent with good accounting and auditing practices and procedures."
The lawsuit also says that Keating's career and reputation has been damaged, that she must now work on matters unfamiliar to her, and that she is seen as being punished for tattling on the governor or "for some unknown wrongdoing."
The suit also alleges that the budget office firing has chilled the constitutional rights of Keating and all other state workers "to bring matters of public concern to the public's attention."
Keating's lawsuit was the second in a week naming the governor. On Tuesday, Chrissy Mazzeo, a former Las Vegas waitress, filed a federal lawsuit accusing Gibbons of making unwanted sexual advances and threatening to rape her in October 2006. Gibbons has denied the allegations.
Mazzeo alleges that Gibbons pushed her against a wall in a parking garage and propositioned her for sex in 2006. Gibbons has said that he merely caught Mazzeo when she tripped in the garage.
At the time a five-term congressman, Gibbons won election as governor that year. Weeks later, a district attorney announced he would not be prosecuted.