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February 1, 2015

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Krolicki case might have big price tag

Catherine Cortez Masto

Catherine Cortez Masto

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki

The state’s prosecution of Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki could be an expensive undertaking.

If the Nevada Supreme Court disqualifies Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto from the case, the state will pay attorney Dominic Gentile $345 an hour — up to a total of $415,000 — to do the job, according to a contract prepared by Cortez Masto.

The attorney general said Gentile’s fees were well below those of other attorneys she considered. Gentile said the contract’s rate is a significant discount from the $610 an hour he typically charges.

The top deputy in the attorney general’s office earns $140,000 a year.

The Board of Examiners will consider the contract at its Aug. 11 meeting.

District Judge Elissa Cadish ruled the attorney general’s office should be disqualified from prosecuting the case, which alleges Krolicki, while state treasurer, mishandled millions of dollars in the Nevada College Savings Program, which that helps parents save money for school. Cadish ruled that the attorney general’s office has a conflict of interest because it approved many contracts the case concerns.

The attorney general’s office has appealed Cadish’s decision. The Nevada Supreme Court will hear it Aug. 31.

Krolicki is likely to argue at trial that he relied on the advice of the attorney general’s office in spending money from the saving plan. His attorneys, Richard Wright and Margaret Standish, have said prosecution by the attorney general’s office “creates an extreme appearance of impropriety and fundamental unfairness.”

Cortez Masto said in seeking a special prosecutor she first talked to the district attorneys’ offices in Las Vegas and Reno. Both declined.

Gentile donated $3,000 to Cortez Masto’s 2006 campaign. The attorney general said that was not a factor in her decision and she had not remembered the donation until a reporter asked about it.

Krolicki and his chief of staff, Kathryn Besser, have pleaded not guilty to misappropriation and falsification of accounts while he was state treasurer.

There are no allegations that money is missing, but a legislative audit found that more than $6 million in fees in the Nevada College Savings Program was spent outside the state’s budgetary process. Administrative and marketing expenses for the program exceeded the amount approved by the Legislature.

If the Supreme Court finds no conflict of interest in Cortez Masto prosecuting the case, Gentile’s contract will be dissolved.

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