The Reno City Council met today to consider allocating additional funds into an enhanced investigation of sexual harassment allegations against City Manager Andrew Clinger.
A previous investigation found no wrong doing by Clinger, according to City Attorney Karl Hall.
Originally pegged at not exceeding $100,000, the mayor and councilmembers approved a new outside legal review of complaints against Clinger for up to $50,000.
The at-times testy meeting deliberated on process of how the investigation has conducted to date.
Councilmembers said they were never made aware of the original complaints, and Clinger said that he is not completely aware of the nature of the allegations against him other than from questions posed to him as part of the first investigation.
The new, expanded investigation was approved by the council after being recommended by Hall at the request of the complainants’ attorney, Bill Peterson.
In the meantime, City Coucilmember Jenny Brekhus firmly asked Clinger to remove himself from his position while the investigation proceeds. A meeting to discuss Clinger being placed on administrative leave was discussed as possibility in the near future.
Reno Mayor HIllary Schieve asked everyone to respect the process.
“This council takes the allegations extremely serious. I also think we need to this throughout and properly for everyone’s sake,” she said.
City Attorney Karl Hall outlined the investigation and reviewed the city’s sexual harassment policy.
On July 21, the city was notified by outside counsel that Clinger did not violate the city’s sexual harassment policy, Hall said. He added that on July 26 he received a second letter from Peterson threatening litigation against the city.
“It was felt by complainants that that investigation was not complete,” Hall said. “I have no objection to a second set of eyes to review what we’ve done. It’s not the city council that does the investigation. That’s the path we’ve gone down, and I think it’s the appropriate path.”
He said that allegations by Peterson, the complainants’ attorney, about how the city handled the situation are untrue.
They are “utterly false and without merit,” he said. An open meeting law complaint is “also without merit.”
Hall said he will be in contact with the Attorney General’s office to ensure city did not violate open meeting law.
Councilman Paul McKenzie questioned whether a supervisor overseeing somebody who has a complaint against them should still continue to supervise them.
Hall said it would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“There’s liability on both sides,” Hall said in reference to whether Clinger could be placed on administrative leave. He added that if there was disciplinary action, the complainants would not be made aware of it.
Coucilmember Noami Duerr noted that council members had not seen the complaints.
“We’ve not been provided with copies of the complaint or complaints. I don’t know the nature of the complaints,” she said. “What I’m concerned about … is that because we were not informed, we did not have an opportunity to consider whether (Clinger should be placed on leave).”
Councilmember Jenny Brekhus said that that the scope and contract details should be made public.
“I misinterpreted the nature of the allegations,” she clarified. “Are there other allegations beyond this?”
She raised her voice at Mayor Schieve during a back-and-forth discussion.
“Please don’t cut me off, Mayor, please don’t cut me off,” Brekhus told Schieve.
Brekhus asked Clinger to relieve himself of his duties for the duration of the investigation.
“I am going to push the issue of asking you, him first, then you (Schieve), to put him on administrative leave during this period of time,” she said.
Hall said the investigation could take up to a month before it gets presented back to council.
Peterson, attorney for the complainants, praised today’s meeting but was critical of City Attorney Hall.
“I could not understand how it is over a period of one month that the city council was not aware of it,” he said. “Everybody is in the dark about what happened notwithstanding the fact that I wrote five letters to the City Attorney. I haven’t received a single response, and apparently I don’t think the city council members have ever seen those letters … all of which outline the particulars of what my clients are complaining about.”
Former State Controller Kim Wallin spoke during public comment and said that Clinger faced similar allegations when he was the state budget director.
“I … hired an individual who had filed a sexual harassment suit against Mr. Clinger in 2008,” Wallin said today. “The state settled that suit for about $75,000. This individual … they were told that they weren’t meeting their expectations on their work, they had not had a performance review for over 10 years, prior to that they had all been meets expectations or exceeds expectations. This individual who hired was one of the best employees I have ever…worked with.”
A lawsuit against Clinger and then Governor Jim Gibbons was ultimately settled. Copies of an amended complaint show that Clinger allegedly sought to remove a long-time, classified state employee.
“Although (Clinger) had terminated Mary Keating from her position, defendant Clinger told plaintiff May Keating she could resign, retire or she could serve a brief sting in another division in a temporary position. That temporary position was scheduled for elimination due to budget cuts,” an amended complaint reads. “In violation of (state law, the plaintiff) was terminated and/or demoted notwithstanding that she had never been counseled or warned of any alleged job deficiency and was improperly and illegally denied notice of any alleged violations and/or was denied progressive discipline if any was allegedly warranted.
“Plaintiff Mary Keating believes that defendant Clinger was motivated by a desire to retaliate against plaintiff Keating for having complained of his improper sexually oriented conduct while on state premises, in or about March of 2006, creating a sexually hostile work environment….”
Clinger said he had no idea what Wallin was talking about or why she was at today’s meeting speaking about him during public comment.
Here is how the incident was reported in 2008 in the Las Vegas Sun:
Clinger said the dismissal was “work-performance related. I don’t want to get into specifics of why. It’s definitely not anything to do with the reasons she’s alleging.”
The lawsuit claims that Clinger also wanted her fired because Keating had complained “of his improper sexually oriented conduct with his wife while on state premises” around March 2006.
Clinger said the incident refers to a time when his wife was sitting on his lap in his office. “One of Mary Keating’s employees walked in unannounced while my wife was there sitting on my lap and my wife stood up.”
He said that he met with Keating after hearing complaints in the office.
“I called Mary in, and just asked her about it. She really downplayed it, said it was no big deal,” he said.