Nevada Controller Convicted in State Senate

The Nevada Senate (search) on Saturday convicted the state controller of using state equipment for her 2002 re-election campaign, but dismissed two other counts that could have led to her removal from office.

Senators voted to issue a censure — an official reprimand — against Kathy Augustine (search) after convicting the two-term Republican on a 14-7 vote — the minimum two-thirds majority needed.

Augustine, the first state official impeached in Nevada history, was in tears after the other counts were dropped.

Special prosecutor Dan Greco said he could not justify asking senators to oust Augustine, but had suggested that she be suspended from her $80,000-a-year job for two months without pay.

Defense attorney Dominic Gentile said a censure was enough, noting that Augustine already had been fined a record $15,000 by the state Ethics Commission.

She has "the scarlet letter of impeachment permanently emblazoned on her," Gentile said.

After the proceedings Augustine said her impeachment was "the result of having two former disgruntled employees."

"It was very difficult for me," Augustine said. "Character and personal assassination is always a very difficult thing. But the truth of the whole matter was revealed."

At the trial's start on Wednesday, Greco said Augustine's employees, fearing for their jobs, turned the office into an illegal "campaign central" in 2002. He said staffers on state time wrote campaign speeches, solicited donations in writing and over the phone, maintained contribution lists — and even asked donors to her opponent why they weren't helping her campaign.

Stacy Jennings, executive director of the Nevada Ethics Commission (search), said the political activity represented "the most egregious violations that I have seen."

The count for which Augustine was convicted alleged she should have known that office equipment and facilities were used for her campaign.

The dismissed charges alleged that Augustine should have known an employee was doing political work for her 2002 re-election on state time, and that a state computer was used for the campaign.

Gentile said legislative lawyers produced an opinion that said state workers are not barred from some campaign work, such as preparing campaign reporting forms for the public official who employs them.