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Mo Denis, target of suit challenging public employees in Legislature, leaving job with state

Updated Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 | 5:42 p.m.

Mo Denis

Mo Denis

CARSON -- The leader of state Senate Democrats will resign from his job with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, potentially nullifying a lawsuit challenging his positions in the executive and legislative branches of state government.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, has found a new job in the private sector and will resign effective Dec. 28, he said. He said he had been looking for a new job with more flexibility months ago, and the move was unrelated to the lawsuit from conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute.

"It became apparent I'd have more responsibility with my work in the state Senate," he said. The lawsuit "wasn't even on the radar."

He would not give details of his new job, other than to say it's in the private sector and in information technology. Denis worked for the state for 17 years.

The conservative group filed a lawsuit in Carson City District Court last month aimed at Denis. It argues that the Nevada Constitution clearly delineates powers between the three branches of government, and that Denis' job in information technology for the state regulatory body violated that.

Underneath it all, though, is a longheld belief among conservatives that public employees, including firefighters and teachers, should not be making policy and passing budgets, which decide things like tax policy and public spending.

Denis said he was served with the lawsuit today.

NPRI said in a statement Denis’ resignation “is a de facto acknowledgement that he recognizes that he has been violating the separation-of-powers clause.” The think tank is evaluating its legal options, Joseph Becker, chief legal officer and director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Litigation, said in the statement.

The Clark County Democratic Party said in a statement that it was “disheartened” by Denis’ decision to leave his job “instead of fighting for himself and his legislative colleagues whom NPRI will target next.”

There are 10 public employees serving as lawmakers, eight Democrats and two Republicans. All except for Denis work for local governments.

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