Decision delays

As Sherrie Doyle and the rest of the Reno City Council were debating issues including the future of the Reno Redevelopment Agency on May 1, Susan Morandi was hard at work on the Secretary of State’s decision about the investigation into campaign contribution violations by Doyle.

As of the RN&R’s deadline this week, that decision had not been made public. By the time you read this, it probably has been. And it’s about time.

Here’s the history of the case. On Feb. 3, 2000, the RN&R published a cover story by D. Brian Burghart, “Paying Debts.” In it, the RN&R revealed that Doyle might have broken several campaign finance laws. On contribution reports, she reported taking $12,600—which is more than the $10,000 limit from an individual. She signed an IOU to political activist Beth Miramon saying she took an additional $7,000-plus from Miramon that was not reported. Finally, she took another $19,361 in “personal” loans from Miramon—meaning she took more than $39,000 total from Miramon.

She also reported no outstanding debts or gifts on a subsequent report with the Nevada Ethics Commission, even though signed IOUs to Miramon indicate that was inaccurate.

After the story broke, the Nevada Division of Investigation launched an investigation into the matter at the request of the Reno Police Department. After 11 months, the investigation was finally completed. According to Lt. Bob Wideman of the NDI, a report was turned over to secretary of state on Jan. 16, 2001.

“It’s a pretty big document,” said Morandi, the deputy secretary of state for elections, shortly after her office received the report. At the time, she told the RN&R it would be a couple of weeks or so, minimum, until any action was taken.

It ended up taking another 3 1/2 months. Morandi attributed the delay to the fact that the decision had to be put on the back burner, thanks to more pressing issues that needed attention while the Legislature is in session.

So, here it is, some 15 months after the investigation of Doyle started, and a decision is finally coming down.

It’s not like people haven’t been waiting for it. Local activist Mike Robinson has been hounding the Secretary of State on both the Sherrie Doyle issue and the up-in-the-air status of possible contribution-reporting violations by Mayor Jeff Griffin (who decided he didn’t need to turn in a list of individual contributors last year because he wasn’t running for anything, even though, legally, he was required to). The RN&R has been calling the Secretary of State’s office every few weeks. And I am sure Doyle herself has to be wondering what is going to come of this.

Robinson sent a letter to Secretary of State Dean Heller on April 26, one week after Heller told a group at a Republican dinner his office would act on the Doyle case within a week, according to Robinson. That week came and went without any word.

Robinson then forwarded a copy of his letter to me. “Does anyone even care?” he asked me.

Yes, Mike, people DO care.

I know the Secretary of State is busy, and I know the Nevada Division of Investigation has other important matters to deal with. But if the laws designed to keep things honest in campaign donations are to be taken seriously, matters like this can’t take so long to decide. The public deserves better. The RN&R spent only six weeks on our investigation of the Doyle matter, and we had other things to do, too.

I am glad the decision is finally here (or at least I hope it is), and I hope it is fair and accurate. It’s better late than never, I guess, although its extreme lateness speaks volumes.