An embattled Las Vegas attorney and his companies donated $50,000 to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s 2018 campaign around the time the lawyer improperly took about $152,000 of a client’s money, campaign and State Bar of Nevada records show.
Between June 8 and Aug. 15, 2018, Brian C. Padgett, 47, his law office and three LLCs tied to him each gave Sisolak a maximum $10,000 contribution, corporation and campaign records show.
Padgett, who served as the chief executive officer of a troubled Nevada cannabis company, also has been charged with writing $400,000 in bad checks, according to court records.
The bar association recommended Padgett lose his law license for five years and be required to retake the bar exam to be reinstated. The state Supreme Court has yet to rule on the bar’s recommendations.
The investigation stemmed from a complaint filed by Bruce Familian, who hired Padgett to represent him in a dispute over Clark County using his property without permission. After Familian won, the county transferred about $152,000, including interest, to the court on Familian’s behalf, but on June 8, 2018, Padgett filed a motion to disburse the money without notifying Familian, bar association records show.
Four days later, the court agreed to release the money, which Padgett received in October, records show.
Between June 8 and June 10, 2018, BCP Holdings 1, LLC, BCP Holdings 2, LLC and BCP Holdings 3, LLC each gave Sisolak the maximum $10,000 contribution, campaign records show. The corporate records list Brian C. Padgett, Esq., as the registered agent and individual with authority to act on behalf of the company or list another LLC that has Padgett’s law office as the manager.
The records list Padgett’s Las Vegas law office address at 611 S. Sixth St. BCP Holdings 1 lists two other people as managers.
Familian said politicians who took Padgett’s money should not keep it.
“They should give the money to the bar and let it be escrowed for his victims,” Familian said after the Review-Journal told him about Padgett’s contributions. “I think at the time (politicians) had taken the money they thought it was good, but now you know where it came from.”
Padgett and his attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
After the election, Padgett’s law office purportedly gave $20,000 to Sisolak’s Inaugural Committee in January 2019, campaign records show.
But bar association investigators, who audited Padgett’s account in 2019 as part of the investigation, said they didn’t find the $20,000 contribution.
“There was nothing political from the firm account,” bar counsel Daniel M. Hooge wrote in response to the Review-Journal’s questions.
Sisolak’s campaign declined an interview and did not respond to questions about whether the governor would keep the money.
“The allegations in the criminal complaint are serious,” Jim Ferrence, spokesman for the Committee to Elect Steve Sisolak, emailed a statement from the governor. “I hope the victims and everyone involved obtain justice.”
Ferrence wrote that voters can decide whether the contributions are appropriate because they were properly disclosed.
“Every contribution Governor Sisolak has accepted is in compliance with Nevada campaign finance laws,” he wrote. “Nevadans know they can count on Governor Sisolak to act independently, and with complete transparency, when doing the people’s business.”
Padgett was able to donate so much above the state’s $10,000 contribution limit because of a 1994 attorney general’s opinion that ruled corporations and LLCs can each give the maximum contribution even if they are controlled by the same person or group of people.
In the second half of 2018, Padgett also gave $10,000 to Attorney General Aaron Ford and $5,000 to County Commissioner Tick Segerblom. Segerblom said he considered Padgett a friend and plans to keep the donation unless he finds out the money came from inappropriate activities.
In total, Padgett and related entities donated $400,000 to politicians of both parties and various political and issue committees between 2009 and 2019, campaign data shows.
Ford declined comment through a spokeswoman.
In August, police arrested Padgett on charges that he passed $400,000 worth of bad checks in an effort to defraud, court records show. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for December.
A month earlier, the State Bar of Nevada recommended that Padgett’s license be suspended for five years in response to Familian’s complaint, bar records show. Familian owed Padgett about $70,000 in legal fees that he allowed him to take from the award, bar records show. But Familian said he still hasn’t seen the rest of the money.
In 2018, the Review-Journal reported that CWNevada, one of the state’s largest marijuana operations with Padgett as its CEO, faced a half-dozen lawsuits, including allegations of fraud, failure to pay vendors on time and intellectual property theft. Last year, the state Department of Taxation shut down two of CWNevada’s dispensaries after they failed to pay the government, workers and creditors.
Padgett also told Henderson police in 2017 that he used cocaine with a woman who then died of drug overdose, and, records show, he acknowledged to police that he failed to report her death to authorities.
Contact Arthur Kane at [email protected]. Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.