(Steve Sebelius) – On Sunday, the Las Vegas Sun printed an op-ed from Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, crowing about the “outrage” visited upon him by the attorney general’s office, which sought an indictment against Krolicki for allegedly misusing state funds. While entertaining, the op-ed fails to survive the close scrutiny that we at Various Things & Stuff are only too happy to provide.
We won’t do our usual paragraph-by-paragraph dissection, since the op-ed is fairly easy to knock down. And we promise that we’ll stop telling the truth about this case just as soon as the lieutenant governor stops spinning the facts.
• Krolicki says Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s case was weak because two judges in Clark County “issued opinions admonishing the attorney general for her handling of this case.” In fact, one judge ruled the attorney general’s office had a conflict of interest in the prosecution, and another ruled the indictment was insufficient on its face. Note that neither of these decisions ruled on the MERITS of the case, which remain strong. A conflict of interest in prosecuting the case is irrelevant to whether Krolicki broke the law, and failing to explain the case properly is a far cry from saying there is no case to be made.
• (BTW, the case is easy to explain: Krolicki oversaw college savings programs, which generated fees. The law said he had to deposit those fees into state bank accounts. But he deliberately, willfully and intentionally ordered contractors not to deposit these fees in state accounts, but rather to spend them at Krolicki’s direction, which direction included producing TV ads featuring Krolicki himself.)
• Krolicki says the attorney general negotiated and approved contracts under which he administered the college savings programs, “and was essentially prosecuting me for actions it had approved.” In fact, Krolicki was prosecuted for failing to deposit moneys owed to the state into state bank accounts, actions which were neither contractual nor approved by the attorney general. This is what we in the business call “a lie,” and Krolicki should not be able to get away with telling it ever again.
• Krolicki says the programs in question were well-run, operated within budgets and didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime. This is true, but irrelevant to whether he failed to deposit money where it was supposed to go.
• Krolicki says the AG’s office and the state Board of Examiners approved “each and every contract.” Also true, but also irrelevant, since the acts for which Krolicki was indicted took place outside the contract and outside the law. Neither the AG nor the Board of Examiners (nor the Legislature) approved of Krolicki’s extra-legal acts.
• Krolicki says the excess funds generated by the program could only have been used on the program, not potentially spent on other state programs as Cortez Masto stated. To be honest, we are not sure who is right on this point, but again, it’s irrelevant. Krolicki failed to perform his duty as specified by law, and was indicted on that basis. Where the money would have gone had it been properly deposited is irrelevant to his prosecution.
• Krolicki says the attorney general’s office misused the criminal justice system and the media “to malign my reputation.” We concede it is a debatable point whether Krolicki should have been indicted and prosecuted for what he did (our own view is well known — the state treasurer of all people ought to follow the state budget act, and suffer consequences for failing to do so). But if Catherine Cortez Masto believed a crime had been committed, could identify the perpetrator and had an honest belief she could secure a conviction by persuading a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, which, by all accounts, she did, then there can be no “abuse” of the criminal justice system. Krolicki’s reputation was maligned by his own bad acts, not by Cortez Masto.
• Finally, people, let’s not forget that this was not a battle between a Democratic attorney general and a Republican lieutenant governor. Nonpartisan state auditors discovered violations of law. Trained criminal investigators examined the case, and forwarded it to the AG for criminal prosecution. Veteran prosecutors looked at the evidence, weighed the facts and — after considerable deliberation — elected to proceed. A grand jury similarly examined evidence and heard from witnesses, and handed up a true bill of indictment. It wasn’t just the AG.
Sadly, however, because of procedural rulings by two judges — neither of whom entertained the case in chief — and because of a decision by Cortez Masto herself not to appeal the last ruling in the matter, a jury won’t ever hear the evidence. We don’t know what the jury may have ruled. We do know, however, that Krolicki’s defense in the Las Vegas Sun fails on almost every point. The only outrage here is that Krolicki expects the public to believe it.
(Mr. Sebelius is editor of CityLife newspaper in Las Vegas)