Gibbons: No new taxes

The Associated Press reported last week that Gov. Jim Gibbons personally traveled to the Elko County assessor’s office to pressure Assessor Joe Aguirre for a tax break on a parcel of land.

Aguirre, who had put a tax bill of about $5,000 on the parcel, yielded to the request after hearing from both Gibbons and a member of the state tax commission but never felt comfortable about the change, which dropped Gibbons’ tax bill to $39.71.

“To say I was put in an awkward position I think is an understatement,” said Aguirre, who said the parcel had previously been a portion of a ranch but that Gibbons failed to submit evidence of continuing agricultural use that would have qualified it for the lower tax. Agriculture industry spokespeople questioned whether the 40 acres could support the kind of ranching that would qualify for the tax break.

Gibbons and his wife Dawn acquired the land with the intention of building a residence. They are now in divorce proceedings.

The disclosure of the tax dispute is the latest in a series of unfavorable news reports to hit the governor and is an indication of how a little bad publicity can open a public figure up to ever greater scrutiny. At least three news entities were working on the Elko tax story. Sandra Cherub of Associated Press, aided by AP capitol bureau chief Brendan Riley, was the first to run the story.