Like the first budget hearing for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General (AG) Adam Laxalt again declined to explain himself before the Nevada Legislature. Instead, several staff appeared in Carson City and Las Vegas to explain what they’ve been up to. Today’s hearing seemed like smoother sailing at first, but there were eventually hiccups along the way.
Laxalt appeared with Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson in Las Vegas on March 8 to announce the grand jury indictments… But not at the Grant Sawyer Building earlier in the day to present his office’s budget to the Legislature.
Representatives from Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and Washoe Legal Services explained what they’re doing with the AG’s Office to assist victims. The AG’s Office and Legal Aid Center have enough funding to continue their collaboration in Clark County for another five years. Northern Nevada, on the other hand, is a little trickier. Washoe Legal Services explained they have funding to pursue another 200 cases (their current guardianship caseload is 200), and that they can just handle Washoe County itself and the Reno adjacent rural counties.
When it came to the other matters the AG’s Office should be handling, Laxalt’s staff again found themselves on the hot seats. Their presentation on the rape kit backlog began smoothly, especially when they specifically stated 2,476 of the backlogged rape kits have since been tested.
But when asked about victim engagement, Laxalt’s staff scrambled.
“I want to make sure you’re reaching out to victims.” That was Assembly Ways and Means Chair Maggie Carlton’s (D-Sunrise Manor) response when AG staff were “not sure about the numbers”. Staff claimed federal grants provide funding for a rape crisis center in Reno and “regular victim notification” in Las Vegas, but didn’t provide specifics on how they’re assisting sexual assault victims. That did not sit well with Carlton, who wanted to make sure victim engagement was more than “just a police officer making a call”.
Neither did the AG staff’s confusing answers on Home Again Nevada, the program launched by then Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) in 2013 as a “single point of contact” for homeowners seeking foreclosure related assistance or other aid programs. When AG staff explained how only 25% of Home Again Nevada funds are now being used to aid distressed homeowners, Carlton was not pleased. “My understanding is these dollars are meant for foreclosure assistance.” Carlton questioned Laxalt’s staff on their decision to direct 75% of Home Again Nevada funds to other programs, including “renter education” on whether they should buy homes and reverse mortgage information.
“Please share my disappointment. […] He was not here to share with us.” – Assembly Member Maggie Carlton
That’s how it ended. Carlton noted Laxalt’s second absence from his office’s budget hearing, but thanked the staff members present for showing up to answer legislators’ questions. She didn’t elaborate further on her satisfaction (or lack thereof) over their answers.