Washoe County Assessor Mike Clark was ordered off county premises last week after allegations of employee harassment were levied against him by Washoe County officials.
A temporary protective order was granted May 25, 2021 after the order was requested by Mary Kandaras, deputy district attorney, on behalf of the county.
“On or about May 4, 2021, Washoe County Manager Eric Brown contacted Washoe County Sheriff’s Office about numerous duplicate mailings sent to officers and employees throughout Washoe County,” the complaint claimed. “These mailings were received by Doctor Laura Knight, of the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office, Karen Jeffers of Washoe County Human Resources and Chief Charles Moore of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, among others.”
News media outlets were also provided the document.
Those documents, in part, rehash statements made in depositions involving Assistant County Manager Kate Thomas and the lawsuits filed against the City of Reno over allegations of misconduct against former City Manager Andrew Clinger.
A two-page, anonymously written screed, which is riddled with typos, is critical of county commissioners, their previously reported squabbles and other county employees. It is also followed by pages of depositions, legal letters and court documents, most of which are public records reported about in past news stories.
“Initially, the County was in possession of 24 envelopes that were mailed to various Washoe County employees,” the complaint alleged. “Ultimately, approximately 162 mailings were recovered. The mailings were all the same and purported to uncover ‘skullduggery’ between the City of Reno and Washoe County.”
Video surveillance confirmed it was Clark mailing the envelopes in late April, the DA’s office noted.
A Washoe County Sheriff’s Office detective became involved allegedly because a large number of envelopes were intercepted because the postage was incorrect, according to Kandaras.
“Washoe County Detective Wes Urban contacted the United States Postal Inspector, Steve Kline,” the complaint noted. “He had intercepted a large number of mailings … at the post office located at 75 McCabe Drive in Reno, Nevada. Inspector Kline became involved because an employee at this location reported concern about the number of envelopes dropped off and that the postage amount was incorrect.”
Case forwarded to Nevada Attorney General
WCSO spokesperson Sarah Johns said, “The mailers were provided to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office by the Office of the County Manager as part of the initial interaction with the WCSO. The case has been forwarded to the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.”
A source with knowledge of the situation said the envelopes were sent with somebody else’s return address, which may have helped prompt the probe by the county.
“Mike Clark’s conduct is inexplicable, premeditated and threatening… The conduct is obsessive and borders on stalking.”
It is not clear from county officials how the mail was intercepted and inspected. It is a federal crime to open another person’s mail. There may be exceptions if there is suspicion that a crime is being committed, according to the USPS website.
“We don’t open mail unless we have a warrant to do so,” said Trevor Hudson, postal inspector in Las Vegas and USPS public information officer for Nevada. “There are other situations where mail can be opened [such as] consent between the sender and receiver.”
It is also unclear what legal mechanisms allowed the county to proceed with a TPO application against Clark.
“Mike Clark’s conduct is inexplicable, premeditated and threatening, especially since … Thomas does not personally know him,” Kandaras wrote. “The conduct is obsessive and borders on stalking.”
The TPO application noted no threats or harassment have been made in the past. TPOs are usually used in domestic situations where there may be a threat of violence, and they can be granted, initially, until a hearing is held with the court.
County officials did not respond to questions as to how the DA’s office can issue a TPO on behalf of an employee, which it represents, against another employee, which it also represents. Clark is an elected official.
“A hearing is set for next Thursday, June 10, at which time the county will present the evidence in support of its application,” county spokesperson Bethany Drysdale said. “Your questions … will likely be addressed at the hearing.”
A judge granted the protective order for 15 days with the possibility of an extension. Clark is not to enter the Washoe County complex, have contact with Thomas or discuss the issue with other county employees, such as his subordinates in the assessor’s office.
Clark did not respond to a request for comment. He told Joe Hart from KRNV he has done nothing wrong.
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 from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.