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April 23, 2014

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Six questions for Conrad Hafen, Chief Deputy Attorney General

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Leila Navidi

Conrad Hafen, who oversees the Public Integrity Unit of the state attorney general’s office, stands in the entryway of the Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas last week. The unit is prosecuting Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and College of Southern Nevada construction chief William “Bob Gilbert.

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Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen has kept a higher profile lately prosecuting public officials. He has obtained criminal indictments against Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and College of Southern Nevada construction chief William “Bob” Gilbert. The former Humboldt County prosecutor talked to the Sun about what it’s like overseeing the attorney general’s 5-year-old Public Integrity Unit.

What did you expect to find when you started looking into the conduct of public officials five years ago?

I’m not sure. The unit was created to address public misconduct. We’ve prosecuted numerous cases involving state employees and public officials. The first case I prosecuted was former (Las Vegas) Councilwoman Janet Moncrief. She was charged with five counts of filing false campaign reports. She ended up admitting to three counts as civil violations and was fined $15,000. We thought that was a fair resolution.

What’s the most blatant case of public corruption you’ve seen?

I’m not sure we can rank cases. They’re all important. The one thing we strive to do in the Public Integrity Unit is to make sure state employees and public officials are held accountable and that there is transparency in government.

But if you had to single out a case, what would it be?

Two years ago, we prosecuted nine people — three employees of the state Welfare Division in North Las Vegas and six family members — for creating false welfare accounts. The employees were setting it up to where family members could collect food stamps each month. The total figure came out to about $40,000. Everyone ended up pleading guilty.

Where do the Krolicki and Gilbert cases rank?

I don’t want to discuss the Krolicki case. In terms of money, the Gilbert case ranks as one of the bigger cases we’ve done. Thousands of dollars were involved.

Why do public officials betray the public’s trust?

I don’t have an answer for that. Based on my experience there are good people who work in government in this state. They are conscientious, and they do their jobs. Unfortunately, as with everything else, you have individuals who choose to violate laws.

Is it more difficult prosecuting public officials than average street criminals?

No. We expect everybody to abide by our laws. As a prosecutor, I strive to apply the same standards to everybody. People need to be held accountable for their crimes regardless of their status.

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