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It seemed like a simple rule: don’t get involved in a political campaign while serving on Nevada’s Ethics Commission.
After all, legislators created the commission as the main safeguard against misconduct by candidates and elected officials.
“It’s almost impossible to think about, with a part-time citizen legislature …
how you could possibly get a good grade in managing the budget,” said David Byerman, former secretary of the state Senate.
The commission has since updated its grant-making rules.
But it’s impossible to tell how many similar cases are out there, because Nevada does not require members of most of the state’s dozens of boards and commissions to disclose their financial ties.
To run for office while policing others would seem to be a clear conflict of interest.
But in 2014, no fewer than three of the commission’s decision-makers decided to do just that, seemingly flouting the law and raising the question: who watches the watchdogs?
But with a lax attitude toward verifying information provided by candidates and elected officials, a crippled ethics enforcement system and a legislature that basically polices itself, Nevada earns a score of 57, or F, in the State Integrity Investigation, placing it 46th among the 50 states.Lawmakers sometimes hold meetings without providing advance notice or agendas to the public, while exhausted legislative staffers struggle to keep up.Budget decisions between sessions are made with little fanfare by a small group of legislators.The legislature employs an auditor to dig into the finances of the executive and judicial branches, who has ferreted out safety problems at the state’s juvenile detention centers and investigated long-hauling of tourists by state-regulated taxi drivers. And while Nevada recently banned all gifts to lawmakers from the state’s powerful lobbyists, those lobbyists still aren’t required to report on their activities between sessions.The disclosures they do file aren’t checked for accuracy, just one detail that helped earn the state a ranking of dead last in the category of lobbying oversight.