Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Last week, after Gary Gray, one of the valley’s top campaign consultants, was accused by a former client of acting unethically on her behalf, one of the questions raised was: What are the implications for Gray’s wife, County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, and other candidates and officeholders for whom Gray works?
Nevada Supreme Court candidate Kris Pickering accused Gray, Pickering’s former campaign manager, of asking her to consider signing a letter to a local attorney, Laura Fitzsimmons, promising to recuse herself from any eminent domain case Fitzsimmons might bring before the Supreme Court. In return, Pickering alleged, her campaign would get $200,000 in donations.
Gray, the allegation went, showed Pickering a similar letter that retired Supreme Court Justice Bob Rose had signed for Fitzsimmons. Rose has since admitted he signed such a letter, but said his recusal was justified and that it was not done for money. Pickering said she refused to sign a letter and notified the FBI, which began an investigation.
So why is this potentially bad for Giunchigliani?
Nobody has accused of Giunchigliani of anything in connection with this dust-up.
But two years ago, when she ran against incumbent Commissioner Myrna Williams, one of her tactics was to taint Williams because she served with four former commissioners who went to prison for corruption.
One of the mailers Giunchigliani sent to voters in 2006 read: “Myrna and Mary and Erin. The corruption trial of county commissioners tells the story.” The wording tied Williams to convicted former commissioners Erin Kenny and Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, even though Williams was not charged in the case.
Now Giunchigliani is likely to see the allegations against her husband used against her if she runs for reelection or any other office. Her term expires in two years.
Might she have more immediate problems as a result of all of this?
Giunchigliani was also part of a unanimous commission vote in August to award two of Fitzsimmons’ clients a total of $160 million in settlements over eminent domain-like cases against the county.
She told the Sun she revealed during closed-door meetings with county legal staff that she was Fitzsimmons’ friend. “I didn’t have to, but I did and it’s on tape,” she said. No one objected.
“And the settlement had nothing to do with my husband. I’m not privy to or part of any investigation.”
She added that the “leak” of the allegation is “politics,” because Pickering was trailing her opponent in recent polls.
“My husband has run campaigns for 30 years and he’s highly ethical and never done anything underhanded or illegal, and I believe that will be borne out regardless of what the motivation is,” she said.
What about Commissioner Tom Collins, who is up for reelection in November and whose campaign is also handled by Gray?
Collins said he has no problem standing with Gray. To him, the whole thing smells of politics.
“Everybody running for office today is going to be related to the devil for the next three weeks,” Collins said. “I love Gary Gray. I’ve gotten mad at him, but Gary does what I direct him to do and he advises me of the consequences. But it’s up to a candidate to decide what to do.”
What about Steve Sisolak, another Gray client, running in a tight race against Brian Scroggins for the commission seat being vacated by Bruce Woodbury? And doesn’t Sisolak also have a connection to Fitzsimmons?
Fitzsimmons was Sisolak’s attorney when he won an eminent domain judgment of $6.5 million from Clark County — worth about $17 million with added fees and interest — that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2006.
“I talked to Gary and I believe what he said, that he did nothing wrong,” Sisolak said. “And it should not affect me, because it has nothing to do with me.”