Friday, May 29, 2009 | 4:22 p.m.
The state Attorney General’s Office says a district judge in Las Vegas “manifestly abused its discretion” when it barred the office from prosecuting Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki on a charge of mishandling a multi-million dollar college saving fund.
The office filed an appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court from the decision of District Judge Elissa Cadish that knocked the attorney general’s criminal division from going forward with its case against Krolicki for actions committed while he was state treasurer.
Attorneys for Krolicki argued, among other things, that the office of attorney general advised him while he was handling the money and it has a conflict of interest now in prosecuting him.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Christine Guerci-Nyhus said it is plain from the law established by the Legislature “that the prosecution of a state officer who has been represented in his official capacity by the attorney general is not a per se conflict of interest.
“Nevada law requires the attorney general to prosecute the same state officials that she is required to advise on all state related legal matters,” said Guerci-Nyhus.
The brief said an investigation by the criminal division of the attorney general’s office produced evidence "that from 2001 to 2006 Krolicki and (Kathryn) Besser failed to properly account for program fees and marketing money generated through the Nevada College Saving Program.”
There was evidence that between 2001 and 2006, Krolicki and Besser, the aide to the treasurer, spent $2.8 million of state money outside the state budget act, the attorney general’s office said. The prosecutors say the defendants failed to get permission from the state Legislature to exceed the $83,500 budget imposed by the 2003 Legislature.
Krolicki and Besser have asked the district court to dismiss the charges but a ruling has not been made.
Krolicki has been indicted by a Clark County grand jury of two felony counts of misappropriation and falsification of accounts by public officer and two felony counts of misappropriation by treasurer.
Besser is accused of one felony count of being a principle to the crime of misappropriation and falsification of accounts by public officer and one felony count of being a principle to the crime of misappropriation.
Guerci-Nyhus said Judge Cadish failed to hold an evidentiary hearing to permit evidence to be presented that there was a “conflict wall” established between the civil attorneys and the criminal lawyers in the attorney general’s office.
The investigation by the state Department of Public Safety lasted 18 months before the attorney general’s office went before the grand jury in Las Vegas.
If the ruling of Judge Cadish is permitted to stand, the practical effect will be that state officers and employees can avoid prosecution by the attorney general’s office if they say they asked for and received legal advice.
“Such a ruling undermines the statutory authority of the attorney general and will prohibit the office of the attorney general from carrying out its duties,” said Guerci-Nyhus.