Reno Fire Chief David Cochran is facing a possible violation of Nevada ethics laws for appearing last year in a campaign video for U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
The matter was first reported by Joe Hart with KRNV. City officials told Hart that Cochran appearing in the advertisement was not a violation of ethics laws because, although Cochran was in a uniform and wearing a badge, his uniform was not an official Reno Fire Department uniform.
City of Reno spokesperson Cassie Harris also told Hart “he does not offer an endorsement of Cortez Masto in the commercial.” Hart noted the city was treading a fine line.
Nevada Ethics Commission Director Ross Armstrong used Hart’s news story, and the City of Reno’s response as evidence to determine a full ethics commission review if warranted in the case.
“You will notice that the person listed as submitting the complaint is me,” Armstrong told This Is Reno. “This occurs when the Nevada Commission on Ethics initiates a complaint on its own motion pursuant to NRS 281A.710(1)(c).”
The ethics complaint against Cochran is similar to what happened to Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverely who was found by the commission to have violated ethics laws for appearing at a campaign event for Cortez Masto’s then opponent Adam Laxalt.
“The ad features several firefighters in shirts from their union making statements in support of Cortez Masto,” the ethics complaint notes of Cochran. “This is done surrounded by fire equipment. Cochran does not appear in a union shirt but rather a full uniform, including his badge and collar pins in front of a government-owned fire truck.
“Cochran closes the ad by looking into the camera and saying, ‘Catherine has been a vital partner to the fire service, and we know that we have her full support.’”
The Ethics Commission complaint was started in early November. Late last week, the commission determined that “the facts establish credible evidence to support a determination that just and sufficient cause exists for the Commission to render an opinion in the matter regarding the alleged violations of NRS 281A.400(7).”
A number of local officials have faced ethics complaints, but most of those have been tossed by the commission. Complaints have been filed against former Reno Police Chief Jason Soto, former Council member Oscar Delgado, former Council member Bonnie Weber and Mayor Hillary Schieve.
The commission issues “letters of caution” to those facing complaints, even when those complaints are not deemed substantial enough to warrant a full ethics commission review.
City of Reno public relations staff did not respond to a request for comment for this story – nor did Cochran.