Las Vegas Sun

January 31, 2015

Currently: 49° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

worker safety:

Setting record straight on Elliott case

Gibbons’ office says it wrongly attributed ‘vindication’ claim


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.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

No trusted comments have been posted.