News reports of Senator Phil Nicholas (R-Albany) using his leadership position to "help out" a client have resurfaced in the news. The Senator from Laramie was a co-chair of the appropriations committee and also a practicing attorney.
Coming into question is the senator's direct involvement in the placement of a line-item budget appropriation that his client will now receive the benefit to the tune of $4 million.
Nicholas denied any wrong doing saying, “Just because I am an attorney and represent somebody doesn’t mean I have a conflict of interest.”
This budget item was also maneuvered by using "fine print" in the budget referred to as a footnote. Capitol insiders say this is a way to fly pet projects under the radar.
Making the senator's actions even more questionable, the executive board that includes Governor Matt Mead held meetings that where closed to the public, but Nicolas' client was given a seat in the meeting.
Cindy Hill who also sits on the executive board blew the whistle on the closed door meetings back in January 2013. Hill said "the person is a client of state Sen. Phil Nicholas."
When questioned by an AP reporter Matt Mead said, "the commission needs to exercise more caution when it goes into executive session."
Nicholas who also commented about the private meeting said, "it was an unintentional mistake."
It should be also noted that Nathan Nicholas a Governor's policy advisor is also an attorney and the son of Senator Nicholas.
The remaining question is this- Will Gov Mead, Senator Nicholas and Policy Advisor Nathan Nicholas who all have Juris Doctor Degrees, now claim they were ignorant of the conflict of interest?