By Ryan Tarinelli
CARSON CITY — The state Senate’s Democratic majority leader tearfully announced his resignation Tuesday after saying he took campaign funds for personal use.
“Due to mistakes I have made, I will be vacating my seat immediately,” Kelvin Atkinson said Tuesday on the floor of the Senate. “Regretfully, it has been discovered I have used campaign funds for personal use. Thus I will be taking responsibility for that. I will be pleading guilty for those actions when the time comes.”
The sudden resignation comes just months after the long-serving legislator was named majority leader last November.
Atkinson, who owns The Urban Lounge bar in Las Vegas, was first elected to the Assembly in 2002 and elected the state Senate in 2012. He was the first black, openly gay member of the Legislature when he came out in 2013 during a debate in the Senate on same-sex marriage.
Atkinson did not offer details about the charges, which he indicated resulted from a federal investigation.
“In this most difficult of circumstances, I have been treated respectfully by the prosecutors and investigators, and I have no one to blame but myself,” he said.
Lawmakers exchanged hugs with the long-serving Democrat following the speech.
Court documents were not immediately available, and it wasn’t clear when his plea will take place.
Atkinson’s attorney, Richard Wright, said in an email Tuesday that his client would plead guilty to a federal wire fraud charge in Las Vegas. He did not offer further details.
Neither the FBI in Las Vegas nor the U.S. Attorney for Nevada commented about Atkinson, spokeswomen said.
Top Republicans in the Legislature seized on Atkinson’s announcement to call for a full corruption probe.
Minority Leader James Settelmeyer said he’s pleased the federal government is in charge of the investigation. State-level investigations, he said, sometimes ted to have “swept things under the rug, in my opinion.”
“I wish him and his family well,” he said.
Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler called Atkinson’s admissions “more than troubling.”
Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement he was “extremely disappointed” about the developments.
“This admitted violation of the law goes against the integrity every elected officer in the state of Nevada should uphold. By doing so, he betrayed the trust of the public, and therefore should be held accountable,” Sisolak said.
The secretary of state’s office, which oversees state campaign finance reporting, declined to comment, spokeswoman Jennifer Russell said.
The Nevada Senate Democrats released a statement Tuesday saying they unanimously elected Democratic Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro to replace Atkinson as Senate Majority leader.
Cannizzaro said in a statement that she was “deeply troubled” to learn about the allegations against Atkinson. She says the caucus will “turn the page and move forward” and commented that Atkinson was right to step down.
Cannizzaro is a chief deputy district attorney in Clark County. She will be the first female to serve as Senate Majority Leader, according to the caucus statement.
The allegations and news of Atkinson’s resignation were first reported by the Nevada Independent on Tuesday.