An understanding of his job.

Chuck Gardner
Las Vegas Review Journal
July 21, 1996

    The Review-Journal has reported that County Treasurer Mark Aston used public money, and allowed others to use public money, to purchase items for private use, such as video games, and to make other purchases not authorized by the county budget. When they were caught, most (but not all) of the money was paid back.

    The Review-Journal quotes District Attorney Stewart Bell saying that no crime has been committed because some of the money wasn't converted to Mr. Aston's "own use" and everyone says they intended to pay it back, anyway.

    It's a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the amount, when a public officer "uses ... public money for his own private purposes, or for any pur pose other than one authorized by law." (NRS Chapter 204)

    Mr. Bell is flat out wrong when he says it's a crime only if you convert the money to your own use. It's a crime to use public money for any purpose "other than one authorized by law."

    He's wrong again when he suggests it's not a crime to take out a five-finger loan of public money. It's a crime to "use" public money for any period of time for any unauthorized purpose.

    If Mr. Aston and his friends can take out such loans at public risk and expense, why can't everyone else?

    He's wrong a third time when he suggests that it's a crime only if you don't pay the money back when you're caught. Try robbing a convenience store and telling the arresting officer that everything's OK now that they have the money back.

    Mr. Bell is wrong a fourth time when he argues that he can't get a conviction of a public officer who says he intended to pay the money back. In fact, such a statement is a highly incriminating admission that forecloses the only legal excuse - that the misappropriation was "accidental, inadvertent, or innocent."

    Mr. Bell has'everything he needs to get a conviction.

    Except an understanding of his job.