Saturday, April 26, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Gov. Jim Gibbons has moved out of the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City as he and first lady Dawn Gibbons deal with marital problems.
“Currently he entertains and conducts needed state business at the mansion, but is temporarily staying in the Reno residence while going through this difficult and painful time,” Jim Denton, a chief political consultant for Gibbons, said in an e-mail.
First lady Dawn Gibbons continues to live in the Governor’s Mansion, according to her attorney, Cal Dunlop.
Denton said he did not know how long Jim Gibbons has been staying in Reno, where he and Dawn Gibbons have owned a house since 1989, according to the Washoe County Assessor’s Office.
But sources said Gibbons moved out a number of weeks ago, after his wife decided to remain in the Governor’s Mansion.
“The governor continues to do the state’s business as usual,” Denton said.
In late February a top Gibbons staffer, Dianne Cornwall, confirmed to a Reno newspaper that the Gibbonses were experiencing marital problems. Since then, both camps have remained mum. Sources, though, said lawyers are involved in discussions between the two.
Jim Gibbons’ allies hope for a relatively speedy and quiet divorce.
But Dawn Gibbons’ refusal to move out of the Governor’s Mansion could bode ill for those hopes.
Sources said Jim Gibbons asked for the divorce, though no papers have been filed.
The Governor’s Mansion, about one-half mile from the state Capitol, was built from 1908 to 1909 on privately donated land for the governor of Nevada and his family. The maintenance and operating budget for the mansion is $742,000 for the current fiscal year and next year.
Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the situation inevitably requires the governor’s attention.
“Even if this goes smoothly, it’s a distraction,” he said. The first lady living in the Governor’s Mansion and the governor living elsewhere “adds another level of complication.”
“You certainly have to have some kind of compassion, a respect for privacy,” he said. “It’s a marital issue.”
Herzik noted that a number of past governors have split their time between their private residences and the state’s official house.
Perhaps the closest recent parallel to Gibbons’ situation is that of Colorado Gov. Bill Owens. Owens and his wife, Frances, separated in 2003, while he served out his second term. The couple had been living with their three children in a private house. Bill Owens moved into the Governor’s Mansion before the couple reconciled in 2005. The couple recently filed for divorce.
“All of it was handled very discreetly,” said Bob Loevy, a political science professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. “If anyone was mad or angry, it never came out publicly.”
Although Owens’ name disappeared from short lists as a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, Loevy said state government functioned as normal.
“Did the Legislature meet, the governor sign bills? Did the governor go around the state, providing political leadership? Yes,” he said. But he pointed out that it is impossible to gauge how much more could have been accomplished had Owens not been going through marital problems.
Denton stressed that the outcome of the Gibbonses’ problems remains uncertain.
“I know they are working toward a resolution and he asks that the family’s personal privacy be respected,” Denton said.