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The Case for Kitty Jung’s Resignation (Opinion)



Submitted by Kurt Thigpen

We’ve all seen the explosive information that came from the offices of Washoe County a couple of weeks ago.

For those of you unaware, on May 31, 2019, Washoe County released the results of an investigation to the public that our County Commissioner, Kitty Jung, had been found to have violated the county’s discrimination, harassment, and conduct policies. The alleged misconduct was geared toward employees of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, and more than one complaint was made and verified by other employees who overheard what happened.

She is alleged to have put pressure on employees to help get rid of their fire chief, and reportedly said things such as, “I need you to get two other commissioners to vote with me.”

She also made homophobic comments about someone such as the fire chief “being gay [redacted] ugly” and how someone “can’t fuck [redacted].” The last part of the report shared on This is Reno states that Jung said, “I hate all fucking men and no man should be in power.”

I was shocked.

Our County Commissioner, someone elected to represent our community, said this? These words came out of her mouth and were now being printed for the world to see? Embarrassing for our community to say the least.

This report came after a third-party investigation that was held, initiated by Washoe County Human Resources. You might be wondering what Washoe County Human Services did to reprimand her. They did the following:

  • Recommended specific training for Commissioner Jung; the requirements of the training were adopted by the Board of Commissioners in 2018 (Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Policy).
  • Strongly suggested Commissioner Jung refrain from engaging in similar conduct in the future.
  • Reminded Commissioner Jung that retaliation against an employee for filing a complaint or providing information related to a complaint, is not tolerated.
  • Washoe County and the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District have acted to the fullest extent of existing statutory authority on this matter.

Really, that’s it? A slap on the wrist and she has to try to behave herself in the future and seek Discrimination & Sexual Harassment Training.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but if any other person in a job had been found in a similar situation they would have been fired on the spot, and rightfully so. Most companies have a zero tolerance policy for anything even resembling this type of overt harassment in the workplace.

So, why is she getting off so lightly? Unacceptable.

As a member of the LGBT community, and someone who unfortunately voted for Kitty Jung in the last election, to say I was appalled would be putting it lightly. I’m angry, and I feel that the community shouldn’t let this matter get swept under the rug as time goes on.

To call out someone’s purported sexual orientation, true or untrue, in a negative way is heinous.  It is never okay for anyone, let alone an elected official to treat another human being this way, especially someone they work with.

After seeing all of the reports coming out about this, I got a little curious to see if perhaps Jung issued an apology to atone for her homophobic remarks, offered an explanation, and maybe asked the community for forgiveness? Not so much. She released the following terse statement to the news media: https://www.ktvn.com/story/40573890/commissioner-warned-after-discrimination-investigation.

It reads rather robotic, and unapologetic. The words “I’m sorry” and “I sincerely apologize” are nowhere to be found. She goes on to say that she accepts the findings of the investigation and “I acknowledge my style and personality are perceived by some as ‘challenging.’”

I have used ‘sailor language’ in conversation, and it is inappropriate. My husband happens to be a former Navy member, and he doesn’t act this way towards the people we work with so, I reject that excuse. Does anyone else hear echoes of “locker room talk”?

She can try to explain this away but, no matter what you consider a personality trait we all make intentional choices in life and in work.

To quote Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

The rest of the statement writes as if she’s the victim in all of this, when there are real people who she harmed using the power that she wields.

I’m not confident that sexual harassment training will be the end of this behavior, and I worry about the employees who submitted these complaints who might be feeling hopeless with the chosen outcome of her punishment.

The sexist, homophobic and toxic remarks she has made will have an effect on those employees, and those that will come after. Now that folks see that she might survive this scandal, they’ll be less likely to feel comfortable reporting possible future incidents.

Washoe County should have a zero tolerance for this behavior, and she should be ejected from her position. But, nobody seems to be standing up to her publicly.

It is time, especially in today’s political climate, that we hold our elected officials accountable. No matter your gender, race, sexual orientation or political party, we have to hold everyone accountable for their actions.

That is why, as a constituent of Washoe County, I am asking for Kitty Jung’s resignation from office, and for someone else to be appointed who can do the job ethically, with dignity, and respect for those who are different from themselves.

It is the right thing to do, and we should expect more from our County Commissioner.

Kurt Thigpen is a local LGBT+ rights advocate and is the President of the American Advertising Federation of Reno and CEO of Ace Studios, a Reno-based creative and digital marketing agency.

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