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Progressives Must Stand Against Harassment (Opinion)


Submitted by William Puchert

William Puchert, courtesy of the author.

“There is no place for sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and our state agencies and key privileged license holders must lead by example,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said as he issued one of his first executive orders when he became governor on January 7, 2019.  

Documentation from the investigation by Washoe County Human Resources on County Commissioner Kitty Jung has shown that based upon the preponderance of the evidence, it has been concluded that the allegations of discriminatory comments regarding men in leadership positions, inappropriate comments about the sexual activities and sexual orientation of staff–all in violation of Washoe County Discrimination and Harassment Policy—have been substantiated.  

The last claim was most repulsive in my opinion and while some may say that Commissioner Jung has a great record on supporting LGBTQ rights, to quote the poet Criss Jami,  “Who you are in public is a test of your conviction; who you are in private your integrity.”  

Washoe County
Kitty Jung.

Commissioner Jung has rationalized her behavior in her response to the allegations as to counter the patriarchal style of leadership within the county’s fire department.

If she was sincere about patriarchy within the ranks of our local first responders, she could have spoken out in last year’s Washoe County Sheriff’s Race where the lack of leadership opportunities for women in local law enforcement was on the forefront. 

Furthermore it is a disservice to women who do face gender discrimination within our public agencies to use her belligerent behavior as an excuse.   There seems to be a bit of a pattern here. In the past when the commissioner’s erratic, self-entitled and disrespectful behavior towards local law enforcement came to light,  there were the familiar excuses and claims of conspiracies of people out to get her.  

I am sure most of us are beginning to become fatigued by the seemingly endless claims of witch-hunts and contrived conspiracies we hear from the current occupant of the White House.

My fellow progressives lose the moral high ground when they speak out against President Trump’s behavior and they fall silent when it is one of our own.

And since news has broke about Commissioner Jung’s inappropriate behavior the silence from local progressive leaders and elected officials has been deafening.  

Within the past two years there have been examples at all three levels of government of a lack of confidence in public officials who have been accused of sexual harassment leading each of them to resign.  

  • When a popular Minnesota Senator, who championed many progressive causes, faced sexual harassment allegations, pressure was put on him by his Democratic colleagues and he was forced to resign.  
  • When three city employees filed sexual harassment claims against a former Reno city manager, he eventually resigned.  
  • When sexual harassment allegations came to light earlier this year against a former Sparks assemblyman, he resigned immediately.   It may be an uncomfortable thing to do, but it’s time for our local progressive leaders and elected officials to call on Commissioner Jung to resign for her pattern of belligerent behavior which has now shown to include gender discrimination and sexual harassment.  

If the previously mentioned proclamation against sexual harassment and discrimination by the Governor is truly a line in the sand against such behavior, then it must be applied universally regardless of party affiliation. Indifference in this case will only give credibility to notions of double-standards and hypocrisy and will further diminish the confidence of those who have been victims to be able to seek justice.  

Finally, I think this is a reminder to our elected officials that they should be more humble and act like public servants rather than demonstrate a pattern of narcissism and self-entitlement which has clearly been shown here.  

William Puchert is a Reno resident, a former journalist and local progressive.

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