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George Knapp: And another thing …

At long last, the brutal election season is over. The nasty, lie-filled TV ads have been muted. The overtly hostile mail pieces have stopped arriving. And the only people knocking on my front door are the usual bill collectors or religious emissaries.

Now is the time to join hands, heal the wounds, remind ourselves that we’re all Americans and we need to work together, right? That’s rich, of course. The election might be over, but the wounds are still gaping, the emotions still raw and the lingering disgust we feel for each other is thick enough to cut with dull hatchet.

It might not feel like it right now, not for those who backed the losing candidates, but life will go on. It’s sort of the same feeling we get when our NFL team gets trounced. We take it personally and are depressed for days. Well, folks, despite what the major parties said about each other during the presidential campaign and the down-ballot contests, our country will still be here in four years. Society will not implode. Civilization will not crumble. Solar flares will not burn our planet to a cinder.

There isn’t much left to say about the presidential or Senate battles in our state, but before we say goodbye to politics for a few months, two leftover items still stick in my craw.

One is the partisan invasion of local judicial races. Like many of you, I received robocalls about one judicial race in particular to let me know that an incumbent justice of the peace is not a Democrat. You don’t say? And I received mailers with a list of judicial candidates who were endorsed by the Nevada GOP. What the hell is this? Why do partisan preferences matter in a judicial race? I don’t want to know whether a judge is a Democrat or Republican. Political preferences should never, ever be a factor in the job performance of any judge (you know, except on the U.S. Supreme Court, where political preference shapes pretty much every decision that is made.) So I made up my mind that I will never vote for any judicial candidate who allows his or her name to be used in any kind of partisan endorsement. That’s a deal-breaker for me and is a trend that needs to be nipped in the bud.

Despite some sneaky crap pulled in Nevada to diminish voting or to confuse the electorate, our state didn’t have nearly as many problems as were reported elsewhere. Both the D’s and the R’s predicted that major fraud would be attempted by the other side, but the only example that rose to the level of a criminal investigation was when Henderson resident Roxanne Rubin was arrested after trying to cast a second ballot. Rubin, a registered Republican, said she had no idea why she was being taken away in cuffs just after her arrest. Within days, though, she came up with a pretty flimsy excuse, claiming she tried to vote a second time in order to demonstrate that there was a flaw in the security system. Oh, she made the point, all right, proving beyond all doubt that people who try to cast more than one ballot will be nailed. If the eyewitness accounts are true, Ms. Rubin told poll workers that she had not cast a ballot already when, in fact, she had. I can only imagine the caterwaul that would have erupted had Rubin been a Democrat. It should make for an entertaining trial if she tries to use that excuse in court.

This next item is not directly related to politics, although at some point our elected officials need to be held accountable for allowing something so heinous to continue. My TV colleague Colleen McCarty has uncovered yet another example of poor oversight by the professional boards that are supposed to keep an eye on the medical professions. You’d think that after the embarrassing and deadly endoscopy scandal, the medical boards might be on their toes. Not so.

Our state nursing board, whose members are appointed by the governor, will not comment at all on a gigantic, horrendous screw-up. The state of Nevada licensed a convicted sex offender named Paul Santiago to work at a state psychiatric facility. The state confirms that it did a background check on Santiago before he was hired, that it knew he had a prior conviction in California for assault with intent to commit rape, but granted him a license anyway, and that he continued to work for the state even after he was arrested anew for allegedly molesting a 10-year-old patient in 2004. A criminal case against Santiago languished in the courts for an astonishing five years. The original victim is now 18 years old, and still Santiago hasn’t been brought to justice. And state officials have refused to say anything about why they would license a guy like this, why they would allow him to work with vulnerable children, and why he was kept his job even after being arrested again for attacking a child.

It is outrageous, ridiculous, mind-boggling. The nursing board says it will not be commenting about its screw-up. The governor’s office is also mum. The professional boards, especially those in the medical fields, have proven again and again that they seem more interested in protecting their professions as opposed to regulating them on behalf of the public. This has got to change.

And in case you have just a tiny bit of anger yet unspent from the election season, here’s one final bit of outrage: The Enterprise Town Board took a vote last week that could come back to bite them on the ass. Literally. Four of the board members voted to approve of a chimpanzee compound in a backyard. A smooth-talking exotic animal trainer named Mike Casey somehow convinced the board members that it is perfectly acceptable to use an old recreational vehicle to house four chimps. The RV is parked in Casey’s backyard in a residential neighborhood, and board members were convinced that it is perfectly safe to have these powerful and unpredictable critters living alongside people.

Perhaps when this issue comes before the County Commission later this month, commissioners can ask Mr. Casey about the nasty scar on his nose, or what is left of it. Some time ago, one of Casey’s supposedly tame and harmless chimps bit his nose off. It has to be reattached surgically. Another chimp born and raised at Casey’s previous compound was raised as a human but went bonkers in Connecticut and chewed the face off of a woman who visited the house where the chimp lived. In at least two other incidents, Casey’s chimps escaped their compounds. One of them was shot and killed (much as a chimp named Buddy was shot and killed in Las Vegas this summer) And another Casey chimp escaped its compound and attacked a neighbor back East.

Sure, Casey’s chimps are small and cute right now, but it is inevitable that when chimps get larger and older and less cute, they become surly and unpredictable, and often erupt in violent episodes because they are forced to live like humans, wear funny clothes, eat crappy human food … and often, something snaps. This is a terrible way for chimps to live. Trapped inside an RV is like a death sentence for these incredibly intelligent creatures. And no matter how closely they are watched, the day will come when one or more of them will escape. On that day, the Enterprise Town Board will have to live with the consequences of this ridiculous vote.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at