Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008 | 3:48 p.m.
CARSON CITY – A Las Vegas Democrat and a Reno Republican will decide whether the state Ethics Commission hears the complaint that Gov. Jim Gibbons misused his political power to get a $5,000 tax break on land in Elko County.
Tim Cashman, the vice chairman of the ethics panel from Las Vegas, and former state Sen. Eric Beyer of Reno will determine if there is enough evidence to send the case to the full commission for a ruling.
The two-person panel hearing will be held Sept. 11 in Carson City and will be open to the public. Usually these hearings are held in private but the governor wants all of the documents and the hearing to be public.
Commission Chairman Mark Hutchinson, a Republican, and Paul Lamboley, a Democrat, were initially appointed to the panel. Patty Cafferata, the executive director of the Ethics Commission, said Lamboley withdrew because he was a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, which filed the complaint against the governor.
The panel must consist of a Democrat and a Republican. Cafferata said Hutchinson and Cashman could not serve on the panel because that would leave no one to chair the hearing of the full ethics commission.
Beyer was appointed to the Ethics Commission by Gibbons.
Travis Brock, executive director of the state Democratic Party, filed the complaint against the governor, alleging he used his authority to gain an unwarranted tax break on land he owns in Elko County. Brock also says the governor misused Elko attorney John Marvel, a member of the state Tax Commission, to help him get the tax reduction.
Gibbons purchased 40 acres near Lamoille and applied for an agricultural deferral that allowed him to pay $40 in tax on the property, not the $5,000 due without the deferment.
Gibbons denied he ever pressured Elko County Assessor Joe Aguirre to grant him the agricultural deferment. But Aguirre said he felt uncomfortable when Gibbons showed up at his office. The assessor did not sign the agricultural deferral and allowed it to take effect without his signature.