- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

RENO, Nev. (AP) | Gov. Jim Gibbons smiled when the judge presiding over what promised to be a salacious and sensational four-day divorce trial asked if Mr. Gibbons’ settlement with the first lady was fair and equitable.

“Yes,” the first-term Republican finally managed to utter, as if biting his tongue.

It may be fair, but the divorce decree ending his 23-year marriage to Dawn Gibbons - the first for a sitting governor in Nevada - is unlikely to undo all the political damage that motivated the former congressman to pay more alimony than he wanted and sell the ranch where he hoped to retire.

The deal reached Monday, however, does avoid a messy public trial filled with allegations of infidelity, name-calling and mean-spirited attacks.

“I’m not going to talk about the divorce,” Mr. Gibbons, 65, told the Associated Press after his court hearing Monday in the self-proclaimed “Divorce Capital of the World.”

“Put it down as no comment,” he said.

Erik Herzik, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the 11th-hour settlement still may have come too late.

“It is a positive just by avoiding a negative,” Mr. Herzik said. “Whether he rebounds from this is an open question. A great deal of damage has already been done and has been reported on for over a year.”

A recent poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal said Mr. Gibbons’ approval rating rose to 19 percent in December after falling into single-digits last summer. He already faces at least two challengers in a GOP primary set for June 8 - former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon.

Mrs. Gibbons said after the hearing that she would keep her married name but relinquish her responsibilities as first lady in the coming weeks.

“I’ve been honored to be first lady for three years,” said the 55-year-old former state legislator, an unsuccessful candidate for her husband’s former congressional seat who owned a pair of Reno wedding chapels. “I did not want to do anything that would dishonor my state. The agreement reflects that.”

The settlement calls for the governor to pay monthly alimony totaling 25 percent of his gross income for the next five years. That will amount to about $4,000 a month next year, but Mrs. Gibbons’ lawyer, Cal Dunlap, said there’s no way to know what the amount will be later, especially if the governor isn’t re-elected next fall.

The couple agreed to sell their Reno home and their 40 acres in scenic Lamoille in Elko County, with the proceeds to be divided equally, lawyers said. Each property has a net value of about $575,000.

Mr. Gibbons had wanted to give his wife their Reno home and keep the Elko property. Under the agreement, the governor will get to keep a 1914 Model T car. The first lady will get a 1915 Model T. He will get to keep his guns, and she will get the art.

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