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December 20, 2014

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Gov. Gibbons, first lady, reach divorce settlement

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AP Photo/Marilyn Newton, The Gazette-Journal

Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons confers with her attorney, Cal Dunlap, before a court hearing in Reno on Monday, Dec. 28, 2009, on the settlement of her divorce from Gov. Jim Gibbons. The divorce trial was due to start Monday morning just as the settlement was made.

Updated Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 | 11:53 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Gov. Jim Gibbons gets a smile on his face just before answering whether he thought the settlement in his divorce case was equitable during a court hearing in Reno on Monday Dec. 28, 2009, regarding his divorce from Dawn Gibbons. After the smile he told the judge he did think it was fair.

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Gov. Jim Gibbons and first lady Dawn Gibbons reached a settlement in their divorce Monday as they were preparing to begin a four-day public trial.

Lawyers and the first couple met with a judge in a Reno courtroom before announcing an agreement had been reached after months of legal wrangling and marathon negotiations.

"This matter is settled," Gary Silverman, the governor's lawyer, told Washoe District Family Court Judge Frances Doherty. If the judge approves the agreement, Gibbons will be the first Nevada governor to get a divorce while in office.

The couple agreed to split their Reno home and 40 acres in scenic Lamoille in Elko County, lawyers said. Each has a net value of about $575,000.

The property was a contentious issue in the negotiations, according to court documents. Gibbons had wanted to give his wife their Reno home, and keep the Elko property.

Under the agreement, the governor will get to keep a 1914 Model T car. The first lady will get a 1915 Model T.

Silverman said other details, like divvying up furniture, will be discussed at another settlement conference Monday afternoon.

During Monday's court hearing, Gibbons joked with a longtime newspaper photographer, saying, "Get my best side, would you?"

The 65-year-old governor filed for divorce in May 2008. He cited incompatibility with his wife of 23 years, and in one court document his attorney compared her to an "enraged ferret."

Under terms of the divorce laid out in court, Dawn Gibbons would get a lump $275,000 payment within 60 days, representing half of the value of the 40 acres the couple own in Lamoille, outside Elko. Once she gets that payment, she'll leave the apartment on the grounds of the governor's residence where she has been staying.

She would also get $1,454 from Gibbons' various pensions (he was an airline pilot and receives a federal pension from his time in Congress.) On top of that, for the next five years she would get 25 percent of his gross monthly income. Recent court documents filed in the divorce put his monthly pre-tax income at $16,700.

Interspersed with those details were how other possessions accumlated over 23 years of marriage. The issue of how to divide furniture was still unresolved, but lawyers for both parties said it would be resolved. Other issues were simpler.

"He would get the guns, she would get the art," said her lawyer, Cal Dunlap.

"The guns to the husband," confirmed Gibbons' lawyer, Silverman.

"The guns to the husband," reconfirmed Dunlap.

Gibbons' lawyer called on the governor to state if he understood all of the terms of the divorce, if he had any questions, if it was "fair and equitable." Gibbons paused. He chuckled. "Yes," he said finally.

Dawn Gibbons hugged a group of women who had shown up at the Reno courtroom to support her. Dawn Gibbons, who will keep her ex-husband's last name, said she will be a private citizen, though still active with causes she's close to.

"I wish him the very best, and I was honored to be first lady for three years," she said after the hearing. "I did not want to dishonor the state, and I think settling this avoids that."

Governor Gibbons walked out of the courtroom holding a banker's box of legal documents and declined to stop to answer questions.

"I have no comment to make," he said. "This is over and finished, and I'm happy to have it over and finished."

Dawn Gibbons, 55, accused her husband of infidelity and of using her to foster his political ambitions. She accused her husband of having affairs with a Playboy model and the estranged wife of a Reno doctor.

The women denied being romantically involved with the governor and described their relationships as "good friends," but one relationship caused Gibbons political embarrassment after it was revealed he used his state-issued cell phone to send more than 860 personal text messages over several weeks in 2007. When word of the texting emerged, Gibbons apologized and said he reimbursed the state $130.

He also denied the messages were "love notes" to the doctor's wife and sent his lawyers to court to prevent them from being made public.

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