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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson

Jeff Simpson on how to fix the appointments to the Gaming Control Board mess

8 January 2007

Nevada gaming regulation suffered a black eye last week, and the blame goes to former Gov. Kenny Guinn and Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Guinn and Gibbons were each elected with significant backing from the casino industry, and both understand the critical importance of the state's highly regarded gaming regulatory system.

But Gibbons and Guinn don't like each other, and their animosity resulted in an embarrassing situation with each having made two appointments to the state Gaming Control Board.

In November Guinn reappointed Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander and appointed his chief of staff, Keith Munro, to succeed board member Bobby Siller after Siller's term ended Dec. 31. Gibbons followed by making his own appointments to the two posts, similarly reappointing Neilander but tabbing Randy Sayre, the chief of the board's investigations division, for Siller's former slot.

So the Control Board now has two different men appointed to one seat.

I don't know him, but everyone I've spoken to has nice things to say about Munro. They say Munro is smart and would make a good board member, although they acknowledge he'd have a steeper learning curve than Sayre, who earns universal praise.

The appointees aren't to blame.

The biggest culprit in the mess is Guinn. During the past two decades most transitions between governors have been marked by consultation, with the outgoing executive deferring to the wishes of the incoming governor in the interest of harmony and allowing the new boss to choose his own team.

And that is the way Guinn should have handled it.

It's not that Munro was a bad choice, it's that Guinn should have let Gibbons make his own selection.

While I think Gibbons deserved the opportunity to make his own Control Board selections, I think the new governor made a series of missteps that call his own judgment and honesty into question.

Instead of openly challenging Guinn's decision to make the picks and asserting his own right to fill the positions, Gibbons said the reason for taking the oath of office at midnight on New Year's Day was to make sure the state was ready to deal with any emergency.

In other words, he took the oath as soon as possible to fight terrorism.

What a crock.

Instead of the high ground, Gibbons and his staff chose the low, and treated Nevadans as fools.

I propose a couple of relatively simple solutions.

First, Munro should not contest Sayre's appointment. He should do the honorable thing and resign the post Guinn appointed him to. A Supreme Court battle over which appointee should sit on the board would be bad for the Control Board and bad for Nevada.

And second, the Legislature should extend the terms of the two Control Board members whose terms expire at the end of years with elections for governor, allowing them to serve until the second Monday in January.

That way new governors will be allowed to make the Control Board appointments they want, and outgoing governors will not be able to pre-empt them.