Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2014

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Lead Yucca Mountain foe asked to resign

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons asked today for the resignation of Robert Loux, the leader of Nevada’s fight against the Yucca Mountain project, who acknowledged this week giving himself and his staff unauthorized pay raises.

Gibbons, who said the unauthorized payments had occurred for years, has lost faith “in Mr. Loux’s ability to effectively manage this office,” according to the governor’s press secretary Ben Kieckhefer.

Loux, who could not be reached for comment, told staff in the governor’s office that he wanted to speak with his attorney and planned on retiring Oct. 8, when he will complete 30 years in state government.

On Tuesday, Loux admitted to the Legislative Interim Finance Committee that he had made an error in authorizing extra pay for himself and his staff. The governor’s office requested during the meeting that he repay $80,000, the amount that he and his staff had collected above their approved salaries.

According to research by the state Budget Division, Loux began overpaying himself and his staff in 2006.

-That year he was authorized $104,497 in pay, but gave himself $120,537.

-In 2007, the Legislature set his salary at $108,677 and he received $125,355.

-For fiscal 2008, ended on June 30, Loux was authorized to receive $114,718 but paid himself $145,718.

-For the current fiscal year, Loux set his pay at $151,542, while lawmakers had authorized $114,088.

The five other employees in the office during this fiscal year earned anywhere from 32 to 52 percent more than the amount set by the Legislature.

Kieckhefer said that research showed “it’s clear this was not a one-time occurrence and Mr. Loux has been paying himself and his staff salaries well above budgeted levels without gubernatorial authorization for years.”

The Nuclear Projects Office was created in 1985 and then-Gov. Richard Bryan appointed Loux to lead the office. He has served under Govs. Bryan, Bob Miller, Kenny Guinn and now Gibbons.

Loux is appointed by the governor but serves at the pleasure of the Commission on Nuclear Projects.

Gibbons has cut the salaries back to their authorized level and is working to see that the inflated pay is not used in computing retirement benefits.

Former U.S. Sen. Dick Bryan, chairman of the Commission on Nuclear Projects, said Loux made a “terrible mistake” but should not resign.

“His experience is invaluable,” said Bryan. He said Nevada is reaching a critical stage in its fight to stop the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles north of Las Vegas.

Bryan said the “reservoir of knowledge” that Loux has is nearly irreplaceable. Those who want the nation’s nuclear waste stored in Nevada are probably “popping the corks on their champagne” now that Loux is in trouble.

The former governor said Loux called him before appearing Tuesday at the Interim Finance Committee to brief him on what he has done. And he said he talked with Gov. Gibbons about the issue.

The commission will discuss the matter at its Sept. 23 meeting, said Bryan.

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