Backup PUC commissioner resigns following story identifying him as a mining lobbyist

Nevada’s backup public utilities commissioner has resigned following publication of a Nevada Independent story identifying him as a paid lobbyist for two mining companies.

Leo Drozdoff, the state’s former Director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, resigned on Friday from his position as “active commissioner” (essentially a substitute) of the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

A spokesman for the PUC confirmed that Drozdoff submitted his resignation to Gov. Brian Sandoval on Friday. 

"At this time I do think it is in our mutual interest for me to step down from this position," he said in the letter. "However small my role was, I will miss being part of your team."

Despite the unusual arrangement, nothing in state ethics law indicates that Drozdoff violated the law in holding both positions. He is currently employed as a lobbyist for Comstock Mining and Albermarle Corp., after spending 25 years employed by the state.

State law requires former regulators to take a year “cooling-off” period before going to work for companies that they previously regulated, but Drozdoff said it didn’t apply to him because he didn’t directly oversee mining companies in his previous role.

The “acting commissioner” is an appointed role that serves at the pleasure of the governor, and acts as a substitute for when one of the PUC’s three full-time commissioners needs to recuse themselves from a vote or decision.

Drozdoff was appointed to that role in Sept. 2016, with commissioner Ann Pongracz taking over that vacancy about a month later. He said he hasn’t been called to act as a commissioner since being hired as a lobbyist, but before Tuesday was still on call if one the commission’s three members needs to recuse themselves from a vote.

State law specifically notes that the “acting commissioner” position doesn’t receive benefits like PERS or group insurance afforded to other state employees, and only receives benefits like travel expenses and an $80 a day salary when other commissioners recuse themselves from a vote.

“There’s nothing else that I’m working on that has any nexus to the PUC,” he said in an earlier interview.

The position is defined as “unclassified staff” in state law, which are allowed to “pursue any other business or occupation” if they don’t conflict with the state job’s duties or hours and permission is obtained from a supervisor.

Disclosure: Leo Drozdoff is a $5 per month supporting member of the The Nevada Independent.

Leo Drozdoff resignation letter by Riley Snyder on Scribd

Update 12:23 p.m. This story has been updated to add a quote from Drozdoff's resignation letter.