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Douglas County Sheriff in hot water again, this time for violating state ethics law


Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley yesterday was cited for violating a state ethics law after appearing at political campaign events in his sheriff’s uniform. Coverley, while in uniform, has been openly supporting U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt.

Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley just before a protest in his community Aug. 8, 2020. Image: Lucia Starbuck / KUNR

He penned an editorial in June, as Douglas County Sheriff, encouraging people to vote for Laxalt.

A citizen complained after stories were published on KUNR in March and a second story in the Record Courier in April where Coverley was photographed in uniform at political events.

The caption on the KUNR story, which is about far-right extremism, reads: “Adam Laxalt was joined by Sheriffs Jesse Watts and Aitor Narvaiza at a recent press conference in Reno, Nev. Both are supporters of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which has ties to the Patriot Movement.”

KUNR’s Bert Johnson reported the following: 

“On that day, Laxalt shared the mic with three rural sheriffs: From Douglas County, Dan Coverley wore a neatly pressed tan uniform. On Laxalt’s left stood Jesse Watts of Eureka County and Aitor Narvaiza of Elko, both sporting ten-gallon hats and handguns strapped to their jeans.”

Wearing his uniform at political events is against the law, the Nevada Ethics Commission determined. “Coverley’s actions constitute a single course of conduct resulting in one violation of the Ethics Law, implicating the provisions of NRS 281A.400(7).”

That law states, in part, “a public officer or employee shall not use governmental time, property, equipment or other facility to benefit a significant personal or pecuniary interest of the public officer or employee or any person to whom the public officer or employee has a commitment in a private capacity.”

The commission said Coverley accepted responsibility for his actions and the violation was not deliberate.

“The Commission admonishes Coverley to familiarize himself with the Ethics Law for the purpose refraining from using governmental time, property, equipment or other facility to benefit a significant personal or pecuniary interest,” commissioners said. “In his response, Coverley takes full responsibility for his actions and admits that he did not review the statute prior to wearing his uniform to a political endorsement event and agrees that he is prohibited from doing so pursuant to NRS 281A.400(7).”

Coverley agreed to hold a training session with his staff to ensure compliance with the law. He also agreed not to wear his uniform at campaign events. 

Coverley was under fire, earning national media attention, in 2020 for telling the Douglas County library director not to call his department if libraries needed help.

He told the library, “Due to your support of Black Lives Matter and the obvious lack of support or trust with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, please do not feel the need to call 911 for help. I wish you good luck with disturbances and lewd behavior, since those are just some of the recent calls my office has assisted you with in the past.”

That statement was rebuked nationally and drew a small demonstration that was met with a massive counter-protest

A small group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators were met with a massive counter-protest with armed and confrontational “patriots” on Aug. 8, 2020 in Douglas County, Nev. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Douglas County sheriff’s deputies put BLM supporters in a location where they were allowed to be threatened and attacked by a mob of “heavily armed” Trump supporters and so-called patriots who created an atmosphere of “extreme tension.”

One man was sentenced to jail for driving his vehicle into the crowd.

“[The] majority were counter protesters, 90% armed to the hilt,” an attorney testified about the incident last year in East Fork Justice Court. “It was very frightening. Hundreds if not a thousand or more people were carrying weapons while masked. Black Lives Matter was very tiny. The vehicle almost hit me.”

Plainclothes law enforcement officers even said they felt threatened at the protest.

The attorney testified the BLM protesters “could not stay anywhere [and were] being forced and pushed from place to place by counter protestors. People were shocked because it had been very peaceful up until this point and now there’s a car coming into the crowd. People got very upset.”

Coverley in 2004 was also sued in 2001 for use of excessive force in Carson City.

“To clear up any confusion: For the incident in 2001, I was disciplined and suspended for one day for using an improper lifting technique,” he told the Record Courier. “The incident was investigated for excessive use of force, and I was cleared.”

Read the complaint and Ethics Commission report here.
(Scroll to page 74)

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.