Published Tuesday, March 26, 2013 | 4:11 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, March 26, 2013 | 12:05 a.m.
A bipartisan committee of lawmakers voted Tuesday to recommend troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, be expelled from the Legislature.
After meeting for nearly three hours behind closed doors, the somber committee members voted 6-to-1 to recommend expulsion.
Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, voted against the expulsion recommendation, saying she believes Brooks should be suspended, rather than expelled.
The committee’s recommendation will go to the full Assembly for a vote as early as Wednesday. A two-thirds majority is needed to expel a member.
"I take no pleasure in making this motion," Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, said, before moving to recommend expulsion. "I do it for the good of the Legislature, and I hope the good of Mr. Brooks."
Under the advice of the special counsel appointed to investigate Brooks’ recent behavior, the committee kept the details of the investigation and the committee hearing private.
But the lawmakers appeared visibly upset by the evidence they heard behind closed doors.
“We all labored over this,” Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said. “Is there a way to find help for Assemblyman Brooks, who, it would appear to us and, I believe most of the public believes, is someone who needs help.”
Brooks opted not to show up Tuesday for the historic legislative hearing on whether he is fit to continue serving as a lawmaker after two arrests and an involuntary admission to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Brooks’ lawyer, Mitchell Posin, attended the hearing and presented his defense during the closed meeting.
“Obviously I am disappointed and I’m hopeful the Assembly as a whole will see things differently,” Posin said after the hearing.
Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said the evidence presented convinced him that Brooks is “unfit to serve.”
“It made me sad,” Horne said of the details of special counsel Mark Ferrario’s investigation. “What I read was not reflective of the man I’ve grown to know.
“As his friend, I am glad those documents are confidential.”
The select committee of seven Assembly members — four Democrats and three Republicans — convened about 7:30 p.m., an hour late to accommodate a travel delay that hampered Posin.
“It would be nice if he were here,” Posin said while walking into the Carson City courthouse where lawmakers were gathered to start the process of determining whether to oust Brooks from the Legislature.
While Brooks did not show up in Carson City, he did arrive briefly at the Grant Sawyer building in Las Vegas, where legislative hearings are often telecast, Legislative Counsel Bureau director Rick Combs said. Brooks left after he found the building closed. He also evaded Capitol police officers who attempted to serve him documents on temporary restraining orders renewed by Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick.
Although Horne did not elaborate as to why the committee recommended expulsion, Assemblyman Wes Duncan, R-Las Vegas, said concerns about Brooks' health were paramount in his vote to expel Brooks.
“There were certain documents about his health and health concerns and those things that were presented to us that the special counsel had basically compiled for us in his research,” he said.
Duncan also said Ferrario presented the committee with evidence that Brooks did not live in the district he represents.
“That in and of itself is a disqualifier,” he said.
Stewart, R-Henderson, had earlier tried to bring the matter of Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, to the committee. A court ruled that Martin did not live in his district at the time he was elected.
The Democratic-controlled Assembly chose to seat Martin anyway, an issue Republicans wanted to contest via this select committee. They were denied because Horne elected to not address the matter.
At the opening of the hearing, Horne, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the committee, read a prepared statement indicating the entirety of the report prepared by the special counsel investigating Brooks’ behavior would remain confidential and the most of the hearing would be closed to the public.
“Our intent is to hold a hearing that is as fair and open as possible," Horne said.
Special counsel Mark Ferrario said he could find no feasible way to release even portions of the report, which he said contained confidential medical information, reports from law enforcement that must remain secret and statements from witnesses who had been promised confidentiality.
Assembly members Wes Duncan and Pat Hickey, both Republicans, questioned why no parts of the investigation could be made available to the public.
“There are two sections that I think are reserved for our closed-hearing relating to personal (information),” Hickey said. “What is the rationale for the rest of the report that includes a lot of public documents and testimony of members that may be pertinent to our decision?”
“If you open the door, you open the door all the way,” Ferrario said in response.
“The reason that there are two reports is, we wanted to make sure that the committee understood that some of the information we obtained was governed by agreements and stipulated protective orders that I had reached with government agencies.
“So under no circumstances can this be released at this time without violating the agreements that I struck with those agencies to obtain the documents in a timely fashion and avoid the expense and delay of going to court.”
Posin did not oppose the decision to keep the hearing and the report confidential.
“It is appropriate to have some matters in public, but there are certainly plenty of very private documents here that do not belong in the public eye,” Posin said.
Since March 1, Ferrario said he has interviewed more than 50 witnesses and obtained reports from government agencies, including law enforcement. He presented two reports to the committee, both about 25 pages long. He also presented about 900 pages of exhibits backing up the information in the report.
He said he twice requested to interview Brooks and was denied. He also said he requested that Brooks sign a release for his medical records and was denied.
A scant 20 minutes after Horne began the hearing, he closed it to the public and ushered a phalanx of television camera crews and reporters out of the room.
Only two members of the Legislature attended to watch the hearing. Assemblyman Harvey Munford and Sen. Scott Hammond sat in the audience and were asked to leave with the rest of the crowd.
Brooks has been placed on administrative leave and banned from the Legislative Building following his arrests. In January, he was arrested on suspicion he threatened Kirkpatrick. No charges have been filed in connection with that incident as witnesses have since changed some of their statements to police.
A week later, Brooks was detained by police for a psychiatric evaluation following a domestic disturbance at a relative’s house involving a sword.
Brooks was arrested a second time last month and charged with domestic battery and resisting a police officer.
In the meantime, Horne banned Brooks from the Legislative Building, determining he posed a safety threat to those who work there. Brooks has filed a lawsuit at the Nevada Supreme Court to overturn the ban.
The hearing Tuesday began more than an hour and a half late because Posin had travel difficulties from Los Angeles, where he was on vacation.
Reporter Andrew Doughman contributed to this report.