Nevada Assembly postpones historic expulsion vote

(AP) Nevada Assembly postpones historic expulsion vote
By SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press
CARSON CITY, Nev.
The Nevada Assembly has postponed a vote on whether to expel a colleague whose public troubles have raised questions about his mental stability and fitness to serve in the state Legislature.

Democratic Assemblyman Steven Brooks could become the first legislator in Nevada’s history to be ousted from office after a select committee voted 6-1 Tuesday to recommend expulsion. It takes a two-thirds majority, or 28 votes, to expel a sitting lawmaker.

A vote by the 42-member Assembly was anticipated Wednesday. But late in the day, Democratic leadership delayed the proceeding. A vote could now come Thursday.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

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.

Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said Wednesday the action on whether to expel troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks could come late Wednesday or later in the week. After a scheduled midday floor session at midday, Horne said the body would be in recess until the “call of the chair,” suggesting a possible Wednesday vote.

Democrats were scheduled to meet in caucus around 6 p.m. A floor vote could follow.

A vote by the full body will decide the political fate of the North Las Vegas Democrat, 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 named to look into Brooks’ behavior voted 6-1 late 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.

But much of the evidence committee members were privy to is confidential _ such as his 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 Assembly 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.

Horne 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 non-committee members 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,” Horne 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 Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a fellow North Las Vegas Democrat. Police said Brooks had a gun and bullets 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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