Wednesday, January 23, 2013

(What About) The Real Issues Behind the Steven Brooks Scandal?

Surprise, surprise... Or not.

As expected, tensions rose in Carson City as scandal plagued Assembly Member Steven Brooks (D-North Las Vegas) returned to the Legislature. Interestingly, it didn't last long. Nonetheless, he made a grand exit!

All of a sudden, this serious case of a potentially dangerous situation erupting in the Nevada Legislature seems to be turning into Nevada Government's own sordid "reality TV" affair. No really, this happened.

Brooks, carrying a cane, wearing dark sunglasses and covering his head with a beige hood, was whisked by police into the Legislative Building and ushered into a closed conference room on the first floor of the building. As legislative staff attempted to divert reporters, Brooks was escorted out of the building after his meeting with police.

Brooks uttered a muffled "No comment," before flashing the peace sign to pursuing reporters.

At least he and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas) were not in the same room today. He ultimately declined to participate in the Assembly Ways & Means hearing that he had originally planned to attend. Instead, he found another way to snub Kirkpatrick.

In another twist to the emerging story, the Clark County Constable's Office sent a deputy with Brooks to provide him personal protection while in Carson City. Constable John Bonaventura has a political rivalry with Kirkpatrick, who is sponsoring legislation to change how the constable's office governed. Bonaventura has been a controversial figure who proposed a reality television show based on his office.

Brooks' lawyer Mitchell Posin confirmed the constable's office offered Brooks personal protection.

"I haven't heard of it either, but this is apparently something they do," Posin said. "It was offered."

Brooks had earlier sought protection from legislative police, worried that a fugitive gang member was after him. Posin said the constable was there to protect him from both gang members and Kirkpatrick.

"Very likely both," Posin said when asked from whom Brooks needed protection.

Now this is really starting to resemble a circus... Albeit a fairly scary circus. I'll become even more frightened if Bravo, TLC, and/or VH1 camera crews are soon seen in Carson City. No wonder why some legislators have become increasingly irritated by the media fixation on the Steven Brooks scandal.

So what are we to do? And what should the "mainstream media" do? There's a reason why I've been trying to focus more on the real public policy problems revealed in this scandal.

But the extent of that anger wasn’t clear until Saturday afternoon, when Atkinson answered his phone and received a warning from “a person close to Brooks” that the assemblyman was looking to hurt Kirkpatrick.

The call so alarmed Atkinson that he called Kirkpatrick, who immediately dialed the police.

According to the police report, Kirkpatrick said Atkinson sent her a text message indicating that "no one else should feel safe around Brooks" and that if Brooks were to show up to the first legislative session, he "would find a way to keep him out of the building." [...]

Brooks’ wife, Ada Brooks, told police the handgun belonged to “one of Steven’s friends who owned a security company.”

Ada Brooks also said that during the past few months, her husband's mental health “has been getting worse and she is worried about him.” Kirkpatrick told police Brooks had been released from Seven Hills Behavioral Center the night before.

As I've been saying here since yesterday, this should make both our legislators and our members of Congress think more about the state of mental health care and the many cracks in current gun laws. (Desert Beacon reported earlier today on some G-O-TEA legislators' latest proposal to crack Nevada's already flimsy gun laws even more.) Again, there are real public policy issues that should come to the forefront now.

But will they? Or will it all be overshadowed by bizarre theatrics and media speculation over personal rivalries?

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