Unfortunately, I think the press is missing the real scandal here.
The facts of the case are that Gibbons bought 40 acres for the express purpose of using it as a retirement residence. Because Nevada tax laws treat residential property different than farmland, Gibbons was hit with a $5k property tax bill.
But then Gibbons hired attorney John E. Marvel (son of longtime Assemblyman John W. Marvel, and who he appointed to the Nevada Tax Commission) to press his case against the Elko assessor, to get his taxes dropped from $5,000 to $15 by claiming it was used for agriculture.
The coverage focuses on the use of an attorney who also sits on the tax commission. While this is certainly interesting, and anyone can plainly see the political pressure being applied, I'm not sure you could create a case out of that.
The real scandal is the canceled checks Gibbons used to prove he was receiving more than $5k in agricultural income from this land. You see, it takes about 100 acres of this kind of land to feed one cow. Under even the most generous fee structure, the most Gibbons could make renting this land for grazing would be about $500. If someone is paying Gibbons more than $5,000 to graze one cow part time, it must be some kind of cow.
The funny part is that the person who is paying Gibbons all this money is the same guy he bought the property from, former Washoe District Judge Jerry Carr Whitehead.
The key will be these checks Whitehead supposedly wrote to Gibbons. Why would he pay 10 times the going rate for grazing land, when he already owns 3,000 acres in the same area? Do I smell a wee bit of fraud here? That's not an ethical problem, it's a criminal problem.
Despite all of Gibbons' Jimbo eruptions, it's this case that could bring his checkered political career to an end.
Now that the photos are out showing Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbon's latest parking lot adventure with another woman, there is some back story to tell.
First, about that night. Our photographer Brad Horn was shooting pictures at the Reno Rodeo for the sports section. Another person there said he saw the gov sitting in the stands holding hands with some woman. Soon afterward, Brad looked up and here was Gibbons and the woman walking toward him. As soon as they saw the camera come up, the woman quickly walked ahead of the gov, trying to pretend they weren't together.
Later, Brad was in the media trailer outside the rodeo and saw the couple walk by, with the gov's arm around his lady friend. He was able to get two shots of them in the dark parking lot before they spotted him and separated.
When editor Barry Ginter first showed me the photos Monday morning, we assumed that the woman was Kathy Karrasch, the woman Gibbons' wife Dawn was accusing him of being "infatuated" with, and whom he had exchanged hundreds of text messages with before he realized he was using a state-owned cell phone.
But we soon found out that the woman was Leslie Sferrazza, ex-wife of former Reno Mayor (and current Justice of the Peace) Pete Sferrazza. If that wasn't bad enough, Leslie had posed for Playboy during her very public divorce battle with Pete back in 1989.
The Appeal staff was overly cautious about running the photos. Barry wanted a story to go with the photos. This wasn't the National Enquirer. But the gov kept dodging our questions, and no one else wanted to touch it. Finally, Gibbons did answer a couple of questions, which gave Barry the material with which he built his column around.
Now, it must be said that taken separately -- the photos, the text messages, the various sightings of Gibbons with other women, the alleged assault on Chrissy Mazzeo, everything -- they are all just circumstantial evidence that he is fooling around. But put them all together, and it's a pretty damming case.
I mean, what in the hell was Gibbons thinking, bringing ex-Playboy model to the rodeo where everyone could see him, while he's in the middle of a nasty divorce? Even if it was innocent, it was exceptionally stupid, if not purposefully reckless. Did he not think anyone would recognize him, or his date?
And this isn't the first time. There are also photos of Gibbons and Sferrazza eating at a Reno IHOP someone took on cell phone, and another sighting of them at a Relay for Life event. And there were many sightings of Gibbons and Karrasch together, acting like they were just another couple.
I really question his mental stability at this point. It seems he wants to get caught.
Another point I'd like to make is about Gibbons' security detail. You will notice in the photos there is no security with the gov. Now remember, this is the same guy who thought is was necessary to double his personal security force, and then staged a very strange midnight swearing in ceremony because of "security concerns." But he seems comfortable hanging out in dark parking lots without his security force. Guess they would spoil the mood.
Gov. Jim Gibbons was unavailable Thursday to comment on growing rumors his marriage is on the rocks. But he and his wife Dawn were reportedly planning to decide what to do about the situation this weekend.
Yes, let's see, the whole state is talking about the Gibbons' getting a divorce, and they decide to spend the weekend planning what to do about it. Did they really think that anyone was going to buy this?
According to a reporter who talked to the governor's press person, they have nothing to release on whether the Gibbons' are getting divorced or not.
The classic non-denial denial.
If the rumor wasn't true, there would certainly be some release denying it outright, and likely blasting us press people for being rumor mongers.
With no word from the Gov's office, it's still just a rumor, but the kind that keeps growing with time. How long before this thing picks up so much speed that they will have to say something?
The rumors are flying that Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is getting divorced from wife Dawn. Wonkette says Gibbons was served with divorce papers, while the Las Vegas Gleaner says it's Jim who is doing the serving.
I've also now heard from several sources that Dawn Gibbons a couple of weeks ago barged into Jim's office and started screaming at him, so loud his whole staff heard it. That could be the root of the rumors.
We've got some folks working on digging out the truth.
Ever hear about the old LBJ trick where he spreads a rumor about someone having carnal knowledge of barnyard animals. "I don't care if anyone believes it, I just want the SOB to deny it."
Well, Jim Gibbons is no LBJ. First he tells the press he "heard" a rumor that the Democrats paid a Wall Street Journal reporter to dig up dirt on him. The next day, he claims he doesn't believe the rumors. But we got two days of stories where his opponent for governor Dina Titus has to deny she had anything to do with it, like any poor small-state Democrat could get the conservative WSJ to trash a Republican.
But Gibbons can't pull this trick off very well, because he can't shut his mouth. Take a look at this part of the story:
(Gibbons) said he did find it strange that the Wall Street Journal would travel to Elko to cover a debate between him and Democratic contender Dina Titus during last year's gubernatorial campaign. He said he is pretty sure one of his staff members told him about the rumors.
Why would Gibbons think that the WSJ reporter was covering the debate? This debate was 10 days before the first WSJ story about Gibbons helping his buddy Warren Trepp snag defense contracts. Why was that reporter in Elko? Could it be he was asking Gibbons about his relationship with Trepp, quotes that were used in the later story?
Sorry, but Gibbons had to know that the reporter was there to grill him about the Trepp story, not about the debate.
Some follow-up questions for Gibbons would be when he heard about the rumor, and what did that WSJ ask him about in Elko?
Jim Gibbons claims the scandals swirling around his administration are not distracting him from his job. But they seem to be distracting him from his sanity:
"I have heard that the Democrats have paid to have these Wall Street Journal articles written," Gibbons said. The Journal has reported that Gibbons is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly accepting unreported gifts or payments from a Reno company that was awarded secret military contracts when Gibbons was in the U.S. House.
Yes, Nevada Democrats are paying off reporters from the country's leading CONSERVATIVE newspaper to write stories about dear ol' Jim. Makes perfect sense. Did the Democrats also pay off the Alberto Gonzales-led Justice Department to open an investigation, too?
Gibbons has officially gone around the bend. His spokesperson tried valiantly to throw him a lifeline:
Gibbons spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin, asked whether the governor put any stock in the rumors, said, "I don't believe he has formulated an opinion on whether or not there's any merit to those comments or not."
"The governor was simply commenting on the fact that he has heard those rumors," Subbotin said.
But the following comment by Gibbons is a little hard to brush over that easily:
"When I met this guy, (WSJ reporter John R. Wilke), he was brought to Elko by the Dina Titus campaign and that is where I met him. So I don't know what his agenda is, but there is nothing there with any of these allegations."
Gibbons isn't saying this is a rumor. He's making a statement of fact. Seems like he buys into these outrageous rumors. Maybe he made them up himself.
There is an article in the Las Vegas Sun about how Gov. Jim Gibbons and Secretary of State Ross Miller are heading for a constitutional clash over the governor's refusal to turn over details of his legal defense fund.
The biggest problem for Miller is that defense funds are not covered in the campaign reporting statutes, the primary area of jurisdiction for the secretary of state.
That allowed Michael Pagni, the Reno lawyer who helped set up the defense fund for Gibbons, to make a case in a letter to Miller last week that the governor is not obligated to make any further disclosures.
There is an "absence of any clear controlling Nevada law addressing the administration or treatment of these types of funds," Pagni said.
If there is no law governing these kinds of accounts, then why isn't this treated as an unlawful bribe? The fund is probably not in his name, but Gibbons is receiving services from it, and that is something that state campaign finance law does cover.
Also remember, there is no accusation that the governor committed any crime while in state office, so you can't make the excuse that this is somehow a part of his current job. The accusations are all centered around his congressional service. The governor is subject to state law, and that law doesn't seem to permit legal defense funds separate from campaign finance law, according to Gibbons' own lawyer. And, Gibbons chose not to declare the fund under federal laws governing contributions to members of Congress, so he can't fall back on that now.
What is the difference between this defense fund and an elected official having a supporter pay his bills for him? If a state senator came into office with a big medical services debt, would it be permissible for a supporter to pay that bill? I don't think so.
And let me ask again, what is so special about this information that the governor would force a showdown?
Usually you have to go out of state to find scandals this hilarious. Gov. Jim Gibbons has finally lost it. He released a statement yesterday to fire back at Secretary of State Ross Miller, who wants The Gibster to tell him more about the quasi-legal defense fund used to pay the high-priced lawyers trying to keep the new guv out of jail.
If you look at what Miller is asking for, it doesn't seem like anything big. He wants some records to show when the money was donated to the fund and verification that the fund is separate from campaign funds. He also wants an explanation on why this fund wasn't disclosed in January when Gibbons took office.
Instead of answering the pertinent questions, Gibbons went on a rant about how the whole thing is a political hit job. Let's go through the statement one rant at a time:
Over the past two weeks, certain individuals in the media and certain political opponents have created an uproar about my use of a "legal defense fund." That fund was created to help defray the costs of responding to allegations by Chrissy Mazzeo and Patricia Sandoval that have been shown to be untrue.
He can't get through the first paragraph without telling a whopping lie. The allegations by Mazzeo and Sandoval were not shown to be untrue. The Mazzeo case was dropped for lack of evidence, but only after Gibbons completely revised his story to make it sound more believable, believe it or not.
The case of the Gibbons' hiring illegal alien Patricia Sandoval were not proven untrue at all. No charges were filed because it happened back in the 80s and early 90s. In this case, we don't have to depend on the word of a drunken cocktail waitress. There is documentation, signed by Dawn Gibbons under penalty of perjury, that Sandoval was in fact employed full time in the Gibbons' home. Yes, the Gibbons' held a press conference during the campaign to deny it, and diverted everyones' attention by saying their maid blackmailed them. But proven wrong? Hardly. They admitted that she worked for them, and that she was illegal.