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Security Breach Prompts Inquiry at City Hall


Public comment at City Hall. Image: Bob Conrad.

Jars of muddy Swan Lake water brought into the joint goverment meeting last week prompted city officials to launch an inquiry into how the props got into City Council chambers.

The city instituted new safety measures for council meetings on July 24. Citizens must now pass through a security checkpoint.

The checkpoint includes going through a metal detector, and bags are screened to prevent anything from weapons to food and beverages from entering council chambers.

But elected officials enter through different doors. At last week’s meeting about a pipeline project to dewater flooded Swan Lake, Lemmon Valley resident Denise Ross displayed two jars of muddy water.

Washoe County
Jeanne Herman.

City Clerk Ashley Turney immediately noted that the jars were not allowed in council chambers, but the meeting continued. That act, however, prompted city officials to launch an inquiry into how the jars made it into the meeting.

It turns out Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman brought the bag with the jars into council chambers.

Herman said she got the jars from Ross in a bathroom at City Hall. She said she offered to carry the bag for Ross because Ross had a large purse.

Others expressed concern about bypassing the city’s new security measures.

Washoe County
Vaughn Hartung.

“We do not condone any action that circumvents the security protocols of another agency,” said Herman’s colleague, Washoe County Commission Chair Vaughn Hartung. “Washoe County takes security protocols extremely seriously and strives to ensure the highest level of safety for staff and the public.”

City spokesperson Jon Humbert said the city’s inquiry did not result in any official action, other than reminding everyone about the city’s new security measures.

“Following the incident at last week’s joint meeting, the City of Reno spoke with our County partners about security protocols and procedures during meetings,” he said. “Safety is our first priority–both for the public and elected officials. We want our safety policies to be clear for everyone.”

The Mayor and Council members have repeatedly expressed concern about citizens bringing in props as part of public comment.

Incidences have included the man who was arrested for drinking what he said was weed-killer at a meeting. He was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and was barred from from having contact with city and county officials.

A Scenic Nevada representative shined a bright light at council members to demonstrate the brightness of digital billboards. And a man once played a song on a boombox in place of what he said was his wife’s public comment.
Humbert said that elected officials and city staff will still be allowed to enter council chambers through their own entrance. He added that city officials will be reviewing last week’s incident with the security contractor hired by the city.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.