Attorney general questions whether remote work, regulation mandates apply to his office
Attorney General Aaron Ford said he does not agree that Gov. Joe Lombardo’s orders requiring regulation cuts and mandating state employees work from the office apply to executive branch offices including his.
The remarks came during a joint press conference with Democratic constitutional officers Treasurer Zach Conine and Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar on Thursday when the three discussed their priorities for the legislative session.
“We are independently constitutionally elected officials. To the extent we can comport with the governor’s request … we will cooperate with him,” Ford said. “But let’s be clear: to the extent those requests begin to impede my clients’ ability to do their job, there may very well be a conversation to be had.”
In January, Lombardo issued an executive order requiring all executive branch entities to review state regulations and recommend at least 10 to be removed by May 1. It also suspended new regulations by executive agencies with exceptions for those affecting public health, public safety, pending judicial deadlines and the essential duties of the branch.
Lombardo also issued an executive order requiring the state workforce to transition to in-person work by July 1. Though officials with the governor’s office said they expected all state workers to return to normal work hours in a physical office by the start of July, Lombardo partly walked that back in an interview with Nevada Independent CEO Jon Ralston on Jan. 27, saying he is open to some people working from home as long as accountability measures are in place and justifications are given.
Though the offices of the attorney general and treasurer have “extremely limited” regulatory authority and play a minor role in regulations, the secretary of state’s office has regulatory authority across many of its divisions. During the press conference, Aguilar said he and his office are focusing on streamlining government processes and want to work with the governor’s office to make government work better for Nevadans.
“Everything we're doing through that lens, and making sure we're making our offices easy,” Aguilar said. “It doesn't begin with regulation. It begins with investment and making government more efficient. It's investing in systems, it's modernizing our government.”
All three of the state agencies have employees who work from home either part-time or full-time. Erik Jimenez, chief policy deputy for the treasurer’s office, said the office has an established work-from-home policy available to employees depending on specific job duties and can vary across divisions.
Though the state’s average vacancy rate is 24 percent, Jimenez said the treasurer’s office has a vacancy rate of only 7 percent. Jimenez attributed the lower vacancy rate to the treasurer’s work-from-home policy and other family-friendly pilot programs, such as allowing parents to bring their infants to work.
Cecilia Heston, a public information officer for the secretary of state’s office, said over the course of the pandemic, the secretary of state determined members of the team could work from home and considers those workers as equally productive as those working in the office.
“We’re comfortable with the management, ability to measure productivity and oversight of our employees, and we expect that practice to continue,” Heston said. “We have some of the hardest working teams in Nevada.”
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.