Kathy Augustine

Last updated
Kathy Augustine
18th Nevada State Controller
In office
January 4, 1999 July 11, 2006

From 1993 to 1995, Augustine served one term in the Nevada Assembly. During the 1992 campaign, she was criticized for a campaign advertisement featuring a bad photograph of her African-American opponent (the same photograph, however, was used by her opponent in her own campaign literature). Above descriptions of the two candidates' positions on various issues was a caption reading, "There is a real difference." Augustine served in the Nevada Senate from 1995 to 1999. In the 1994 state senate election, she defeated incumbent Lori Lipman Brown, and once again drew controversy for a campaign advertisement in which she accused Brown of being opposed to prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. In fact, Brown, who is ethnically Jewish (though an atheist theologically), [7] declined to participate in a prayer led by a Christian minister, and the accusation regarding Brown's opposition to the Pledge was false. In 1998, Augustine was elected as the state's first female State Controller, serving in that post until her death. In January 2004, George W. Bush administration officials advised Augustine that she was a finalist to become Treasurer of the United States; however, Anna Escobedo Cabral was subsequently nominated and confirmed as Treasurer.

Impeachment and censure

In September 2004, Augustine was accused of violating state ethics laws during her 2002 re-election campaign, and was fined a record $15,000 by the state Ethics Commission for using state personnel and equipment for her personal re-election campaign. As a result of the investigation, she was impeached by the Nevada Assembly in November of the same year, and temporarily relinquished office. [8] She was the first Nevada state official to be impeached. Following a week-long trial in the Nevada Senate, she was convicted on one charge, but acquitted on three others. [9] Augustine was censured, but allowed to resume office.

2006 State Treasurer race

Unable to seek a third term as State Controller due to term limits, in January 2006, Augustine announced her candidacy for Nevada State Treasurer, despite opposition from state Republican Party leaders stemming from her impeachment. In May 2006, the party voted to deny her party support in the State Treasurer race. Despite her death, her name remained on the ballot for the August 15 primary, and she received 18.64% of the vote. [10]

Murder and subsequent death investigation

On July 8, 2006, Augustine was found unconscious in her Reno home, and died three days later without regaining consciousness. [11] [12] Following Augustine's death Governor Kenny Guinn appointed Steve Martin, an accountant and Republican candidate in the 2006 State Controller race, to succeed her. [13]

Although early reports stated that the cause of death was a heart attack, police soon came to suspect foul play. [14]

On July 14, 2006, her husband, nurse Chaz Higgs, attempted suicide by slitting his wrists in the couple's Las Vegas home. [15] Higgs was arrested in Hampton, Virginia on September 29, 2006, and charged with first degree murder in Augustine's death after an FBI toxicology test found traces of the paralyzing drug succinylcholine in her system. [14] Higgs, a critical care nurse, allegedly made suspicious remarks to a co-worker about how to kill someone undetectably using succinylcholine. [11] [15] He was extradited back to Nevada. [11] The warrant and test results were kept secret until Higgs's arrest. [12]

Higgs was convicted of murder by a Reno jury on June 29, 2007. [15] He was sentenced to life in prison, with a chance of parole after 20 years. [15] He was placed on suicide watch after twice trying to kill himself while in custody. [15] Higgs is housed in the High Desert State Prison near Indian Springs, Nevada. [16] In May 2009, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld Higgs' murder conviction in a majority decision. [16]

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  1. Kathy Augustine Biography, Controller's Office.
  2. "Nevada State Controller Kathy Augustine dies". News 3 Las Vegas. KVBC. July 12, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved July 16, 2006.
  3. "State Controller Named Italian-American of the Year" (PDF). Press Release 00403. Controller's Office, State of Nevada. June 10, 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 10, 2005. Retrieved July 14, 2006.
  4. "MSN | Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing, Breaking News, and Latest Videos". www.msn.com. Archived from the original on March 17, 2020. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  5. "Chaz Higgs, Kathy Augustine's husband, attempts suicide". News 3 Las Vegas. KVBC. July 14, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved July 14, 2006.
  6. "Daughter of lawmaker killed in 2006 found dead in apparent murder-suicide". Las Vegas Review-Journal. August 28, 2012. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  7. Secular Coalition for America Staff, Secular Coalition for America. Archived January 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Articles of Impeachment" . Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  9. "21st Special Session General Information". www.leg.state.nv.us. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  10. "Election Summary". Nevada Secretary of State. August 16, 2006. Archived from the original on August 29, 2006. Retrieved August 16, 2006.
  11. 1 2 3 Friess, Steve (3 October 2006). "Police Investigate '03 Death After Charge Against Nurse". The New York Times . Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  12. 1 2 Sonner, Scott (30 September 2006). "Nev. Official's Husband Charged in Death". The Washington Post . Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  13. "Former NV controller to run for treasurer". The San Diego Union-Tribune . 8 January 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  14. 1 2 Ritter, Ken (2 May 2007). "Man cleared in death of Nevada official, awaits trial in second case". The Seattle Times . Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 Martelle, Scott (30 June 2007). "Nevada official's widower guilty". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  16. 1 2 Ryan, Cy (15 January 2010). "Court issues full opinion in Kathy Augustine murder". Las Vegas Sun . Retrieved 6 September 2017.

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by Nevada State Controller
Succeeded by