Historic expulsion vote pending in Nevada Assembly

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Associated Press

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 10:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 27 at 10:34 PM

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Members of the Nevada Assembly are poised for a historic vote on whether to oust one of their own — something only contemplated once in the early years of Nevada's statehood but never carried out.

A vote on whether to expel troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks was anticipated Wednesday night, but Democratic leadership delayed the matter late in the day.

Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick said after meeting with fellow Democrats that the Assembly "may or may not" vote Thursday.

Lawmakers wanted more time to consider their thoughts on the matter, Assembly Majority Leader William Horne said. The last time the Assembly initiated the expulsion of a member was in 1867, and in that case, a formal vote wasn't taken.

The Assembly's impending vote will decide the political fate of Brooks, who in the past two months has been arrested twice, involuntarily hospitalized for a mental evaluation, fired from his day job and banished from the Legislature Building after public displays of bizarre behavior.

A bipartisan select committee empaneled to look into the North Las Vegas Democrat's behavior voted 6-1 Tuesday to recommend expulsion.

"I take no pleasure in making this motion," said Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, who added it was for the good of the Legislature, "and I hope the good of Mr. Brooks."

The lone dissenting vote came from Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, who favored suspension over expulsion.

Much of the evidence that committee members were privy to is confidential — such as Brooks' medical records — and will not be shared with all Assembly members or the public.

The secrecy presents an uncomfortable dilemma for some lawmakers as they are asked to judge the fitness of a colleague based largely on public reports and their own observations of and interactions with Brooks.

It weighed on some members of the committee before Tuesday night's meeting was closed.

Mark Ferrario, an independent counsel hired to investigate Brooks for the committee, presented the panel with two reports accompanied by roughly 900 pages of supporting documents.

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, and Assemblyman Wesley Duncan, R-Las Vegas, questioned why at least some of the investigative findings could not be released.

Hickey acknowledged medical privacy concerns but asked, "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?"

But Ferrario said the information was so intertwined, it could not easily be split into what can or can't be made public.

He added that some of his information was only obtained under confidentiality agreements with state agencies or witnesses who were promised they would not be revealed.

"If you open the door, you open the door all the way," he said.

On Wednesday, Hickey said he hoped for more transparency so the public can weigh how the decision was made.

"I just think, after going through the process as a committee last night, I think that the public might better appreciate the diligence and the wrenching labor that it took to take a vote to decide to expel a person, knowing that history being behind you on this has never been done before," Hickey said.

"It's a very serious vote."

Horne, D-Las Vegas, on Wednesday downplayed whether keeping details of the report from all Assembly members would be a factor in the ultimate outcome. He compared it to the U.S. Congress, where members of the House and Senate intelligence committees are allowed to see top secret information, while other lawmakers are not.

"It's an enormous leap sometimes to ask your colleagues to trust you on that, but as I stated last night the members of the (select) committee were chosen for a reason, because of how their colleagues view them," the majority leader said.

Brooks, a 41-year-old father of four, was re-elected to a second term in November. But his public troubles began two months later, following his arrest Jan. 19 for allegedly voicing threats against Kirkpatrick, a fellow North Las Vegas Democrat. Police said Brooks had a gun and ammunition in his car, but no charges have been filed.

He was arrested again in February after police say he threw punches and grabbed for the gun of an officer who had responded to a domestic dispute at his estranged wife's house. He faces a court hearing in May on one felony and three lesser charges.

Brooks also was hospitalized for a psychiatric evaluation after police were called to a disturbance at this grandmother's home. He posed bare-chested for a newspaper photographer and was sworn in to the Legislature when it convened Feb. 4. He was banished from the building a week later as a possible security risk.

Brooks didn't attend Tuesday's hearing.

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Associated Press writer Matt Woolbright contributed to this story.

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