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August 29, 2014

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worker safety:

Setting record straight on Elliott case

Gibbons’ office says it wrongly attributed ‘vindication’ claim

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Associated Press file

Gov. Jim Gibbons, center, answers a reporter’s question in his office June 6, 2007, in Carson City. With him at the table is Mendy Elliott, then-director of the Business and Industry Department, who was the subject of investigations into her role in a workplace safety case. She is now Gibbons’ deputy chief of staff.

Gov. Jim Gibbons’ office says it erred when it issued a news release last week stating that an investigation by the attorney general had vindicated a top political appointee in her role in a workplace safety case.

The claim of vindication should have been attributed to an attorney for the political appointee, Mendy Elliott, who is Gibbons’ deputy chief of staff, the governor’s office said in a news release this week. The attorney general’s office had cleared Elliott of breaching public corruption statutes, but never said she had been vindicated.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto had ordered an investigation into Elliott’s involvement in a case against Boyd Gaming, owner of the Orleans, where a double fatal accident occurred in 2007.

Elliott, then director of the Business and Industry Department, called a meeting in her office between Boyd representatives and the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration, whose investigators had cited Boyd for willful violations that led to the deaths.

At a later meeting, the violations were reduced in an unusual settlement deal.

Last week, the attorney general’s office released a memo to the Las Vegas Sun stating Chief Deputy Attorney Conrad Hafen had determined, “There does not appear to be sufficient evidence to file criminal charges relating to the misconduct of a public officer.”

That was based primarily on testimony from Business and Industry attorney John Wiles, who told investigators it was his decision — not Elliott’s — to change the citations.

Daniel Burns, a spokesman for the governor, said in a news release last week that the attorney general’s investigation was prompted by a U.S. Labor Department probe and said, “The Nevada attorney general’s office disagreed with the federal report, citing in a memo that the investigation ‘clearly vindicates you (Elliott).’ ”

In fact, the attorney general’s inspection began well before the federal agency issued its reports this fall, and it was Elliott’s attorney, not the attorney general’s office, who interpreted the memo to declare Elliott had been “vindicated.”

Burns said it was a simple mistake.

He had received an e-mail from Elliott’s attorney and mistakenly referred to him as the attorney general in the news release he sent out last week.

“My problem is I was working too fast, and I shouldn’t have been working so fast,” Burns said.

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