The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the state's ethics laws on Wednesday while backing the censure of a Sparks councilman for his 2005 vote on a casino project involving his former campaign manager.
In a 5-2 opinion, justices rejected arguments from Sparks Councilman Michael Carrigan that the conflict of interest laws are overly vague and violate constitutional protections of right of association.
Chief Justice Kris Pickering, writing for the majority, said the law serves to ensure that public officers "avoid conflicts between (their) private interests and those of the general public whom (they) serve."
At issue was whether a catch-all phrase in Nevada law extending defined voting prohibitions — such as in matter involving family members, business partners or employers — to any other substantially similar relationship is vague and unconstitutional.
Carrigan was censured by the state Ethics Commission for voting on the Lazy 8 hotel-casino project. Carlos Vasquez, a lobbyist for the project, had served as Carrigan's campaign manager free of charge and placed media ads for the campaign at cost, according to court documents. He also lobbied for the project before the Sparks City Council.
The Lazy 8 was backed by one-time developer and Nevada political powerhouse Harvey Whittemore, who was convicted this year in federal court on felony charges related to illegal campaign contributions made to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.