Nevada’s Republican Governor, Joe Lombardo, narrowly escaped a proposed fine of $1.67 million, but was not spared a censure and a $20,000 penalty for misusing his sheriff’s uniform and badge in his campaign materials, Your Content has learned.
The state board declared this act a violation of the law that forbids candidates from exploiting government resources for their personal campaigns.
Ross Armstrong, the Executive Director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics, initially accused Lombardo of 68 ethics law infringements, originating from 34 social media posts. Each post featured Lombardo in his sheriff’s attire or badge, which Armstrong argued violated two state statutes.
However, the commission concluded that there was only one violation per image, not per usage in campaign materials. Elizabeth Bassett, an attorney, contended during the three-and-a-half-hour hearing that Lombardo’s use of the sheriff’s badge, a government-owned property, gave him an unfair advantage in his campaign.
She claimed that his repeated and deliberate violation of state law suggested that he had the endorsement of his public office.
Despite this, the commission found Lombardo guilty of only one statute violation – the misuse of government resources for personal gain without warrant. They ruled that he did not breach the statute that prohibits public officers from exploiting their position without warrant.
Lombardo’s legal team described the proposed penalty as “eye-watering” and unprecedented. Attorney Colby Williams defended Lombardo, stating that the role of county sheriff is a 24/7 job and that Lombardo’s position was already well-known. He argued that Lombardo had a First Amendment right to inform the public of his elected position.
Williams also claimed that there was no evidence that Lombardo’s limited use of the four images gave him any unwarranted advantage.
Samuel Mirkovich, Lombardo’s representative, expressed disappointment with certain aspects of the commission’s ruling, stating that they were considering all options. Meanwhile, Hilary Barrett, the executive director of the Nevada Democratic Party, criticized Lombardo, stating that he “has never acted as if the law applied to him.”
Lombardo, who served two elected terms as a nonpartisan sheriff in Clark County, became governor in January 2023, defeating the Democratic incumbent, Steve Sisolak. He had recently appointed two members to the commission: Stanley Olsen, a former LVMPD employee and Republican state Senator, and Democrat John Moran III.
Both appointees described Lombardo as a “professional acquaintance” and stated that their relationship with Lombardo would not interfere with their duties on the board.
The board consists of four members appointed by the governor and four members appointed by a commission of state lawmakers, according to AP.