Stringing up cable and controllers

Expanded from the 12-5-2004 Daily Sparks Tribune
12-10-2004 Comstock Chronicle

Ding-dong state controller Kathy Augustine was convicted on the least of three charges by the Nevada State Senate on Saturday. She will probably not be removed from office as a result. It's been a disgraceful and money-wasting debacle, but what did we expect from someone who could cite only one thin non-qualification for becoming the state's chief accountant? (Augustine noted that she had made change after serving drinks while working as an airline stewardess.)

Lack of qualifications did not prevent her previous elections to both the Nevada State Assembly and State Senate by pandering to racism and anti-semitism. (Also see "Smoking Guns," below.)

However, Augustine's dereliction should not be used to reinvigorate discredited moves to eliminate the controller's office by merging its functions with that of the state treasurer.

There is a serious check and balance issue here. Back when I was an accounting major, my professors used to call it internal control. The person who receives and manages the money should not be the same person who reviews invoices and writes the checks. That pretty well describes the difference between the state treasurer and state controller.

Elimination of the office has bipartisan opposition. Attorney Patricia Cafferata, R, who served as state treasurer from 1983 to 1987, opposes elimination of the controller's office. So does Washoe County planning commissioner Mary Sanada, a CPA who worked in the controller's office for many years and was unfortunately defeated by Augustine in 1998. (The GOP strongly supports its candidates, the Democrats…do less.)

"The treasurer has custody of the bank accounts and the controller has custody of the books," Sanada says. "If the two functions were under one elected official, it would be easier for a defalcation (misappropriation of funds) to occur. The savings from combining the offices are difficult to support. The only thing that would be saved is the salary of one elected official and perhaps his or her secretary. The other jobs still would need to be done," she adds.

Cafferata agrees. "The late state controller Darrel Daines and I have opposed the combining of the offices of state treasurer and controller ever since Bob Seale (former state treasurer and newly-elected assemblyman, R-Las Vegas) first proposed to eliminate the controller's office. The two offices are not archaic; they are integral to ensure the checks and balances to protect the taxpayer's money. The treasurer receives the money, the controller accounts for the money and the two officials sign the warrants or checks to disburse the money. To allow one office to control the income and the disbursements sets up an opportunity to embezzle money from the treasury. The times in Nevada's history when there have been embezzlements, the treasurer and controller worked together to accomplish it," Cafferata notes.

Look for this fight to continue when the legislature considers Seale's elimination proposal next year. Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Sparks, has introduced the measure in the past.


Carson City will appeal cable company's request

   CHARTER EXEC: Company seeks fair playing field, not hike in cable bills

   The above presents Charter in full corporate defensive mode, almost a point-by-point rebuttal of the 11-21-2004 Barbwire. For instance, this is the first time Charter has mentioned "skinny basic" in almost two years. The coverage by Appeal reporters Robyn Moormeister and Becky Bosshart is exemplary journalism.

   Update 11-30-2004: Download the opposition brief.
(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader which you may obtain free at

   Update 12-1: Governments file objections

CABLE CAPERS: With a little prodding from readers of this column, the governments of Reno, Sparks, Washoe County and Carson City have jointly challenged Charter Communications' application for total deregulation. Charter's three-pound filing to the Federal Communications Commission was deficient on its face. The local cable monopoly needed to show only that satellite competitors now enjoy a whole 15 percent of the market, which your congress and the FCC have defined as the threshold of effective competition. Charter controls more than six in 10 TV sets in this region, a monopoly everywhere but Washington Neverland.

Charter's math is cockamamie. In estimating local satellite penetration, the company did the equivalent of calculating the population of Nevada by dividing the population of the U.S. by 50 states. By that meat-ax measure, Nevada should have about six million citizens, three times the actual number.

So the feds should easily blow out Charter's application, right? Wrong. The local governments criticized Charter's math but did not bring in original data of their own. Just saying Charter's methodology is wrong may not be enough. Any regulatory body needs countervailing evidence and therein the local governments' submission seems lacking.

Stay tuned. This fight is far from over.

This Thursday afternoon, as chairman of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, I've been asked to present an overview of activities to the Reno city council's committee in charge of reviewing committees. Agenda and questions may be accessed from the expanded web edition of this column at If you can attend, I promise an interesting earful.

HEAT FOR A COLD DAY. You'll enjoy tuning in Sam Shad's Nevada Newsmakers this week. On Monday, I debate "GOP George" Harris, chairman of the Nevada Republican Liberty Caucus. The very bright Mr. Harris often ticks off as many conservatives as he does liberals. I resemble that remark. As Travus T. Hipp told me many years ago, when you've got both sides mad at you, you're doing something right. On Thursday, I'll participate in the pundit panel peanut gallery with Reno Gazette-Journal political writer Ray Hagar and Dan Mason, program director of KKKOH Radio.

In northern Nevada, the Shad soiree airs Monday through Thursday at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4 and reruns at 9:28 p.m. on low-priced, consumer-friendly Charter cable channel 12 in Washoe-Carson-Douglas. Audio re-airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. on KKKOH-780am. You'll find a complete statewide schedule linked to the web edition of this column.

Speaking of redneck radio, I understand that I was roundly trashed in Lush Rambo Land during Mr. Slanders' Neighborhood on the local hate radio spigot a couple of weeks ago. Fine by me. Like an old politician once said, call me a son of a bitch, just spell my name right.

Be well. Raise hell.


Constitutional scholars: Nevada State Senate's failure to remove state controller from office upon impeachment and conviction was an extra-legal invention.
" definition, conviction is removal."
Reno News & Review 12-9-2004

Augustine goes back to work Monday, Dec. 6

Political observers say Augustine's career probably over, criticize senate leniency

Trial energizes efforts to eliminate state controller's office

State Controller Kathy Augustine's sleazy political record
Las Vegas Review-Journal Columnist Jane Ann Morrison:
Augustine's impending political end rooted in past skulduggery
Las Vegas Review-Journal Columnist Jon Ralston:
The truth is, they lied

I warned you about Augustine in 1998

Controller accused of harassing worker
CARSON CITY -- Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine, already facing an ethics complaint for allegedly making her office staffers do campaign work, also has been accused of sexual harassment in a federal court complaint filed by a former chief deputy...

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Copyright © 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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