Judge Richard Glasson today called Washoe County Assessor Mike Clark’s pseudo-anonymous mailings of more than 150 packages to various officials and news media in April “altogether creepy and disturbing.”
He also extended a temporary protection order against Clark for a year.
At the request of Washoe County-hired attorney Brian Brown, representing County Manager Eric Brown, Glasson granted the year extension with a modification that Clark is allowed back in the county building where he works.
If he has to conduct business in other parts of the county complex, Clark has to be escorted by the county’s head of security.
Glasson called Clark’s actions “more than reckless. They were intentional. The court finds any reasonable person would feel terrorized.”
Attorney Brown argued that the surreptitious nature of the mailings, combined with their widespread delivery, added to county employees feeling harassed.
“Every single witness who provided relevant testimony described the feeling of being frightened, intimidated or harassed by the act of Mr. Clark in sending those packets… It is magnified by the fact that this person tried to hide his identity and do this anonymously,” Brown argued.
Glasson agreed. He said that because Clark used former Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger’s home as the return address on the envelopes, it was an “attempt to be surreptitious.”
Clark is also facing an investigation by the Nevada Attorney General. A Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) sergeant said they turned over the case to the AG’s office in order to avoid a conflict of interest among county officials.
A U.S. postal inspector also said Clark’s actions violated two federal laws but did not say if further charges are pending after he passed the case on to the U.S. Attorney General.
Clark’s attorney, Mark Mausert, said the mailed 62-page document, mostly comprising selective public records implying widespread wrongdoing by county officials, was “dumped on [Clark’s] desk.”
Mausert argued there was no threat of violence by Clark, something witnesses conceded when asked by Mausert.
“[Clark] is not a violent man. He’s 70 years old. He made a mistake,” Mausert said.
But Clark took that document and mailed 162 copies of it to various people in Washoe County, two in Las Vegas and one out of state — more than 11,000 pages in total. He spent more than $1,000 in postage. He used Clinger’s address as the return address, but crossed out the name on the return address.
U.S. Postal Inspector Steve Kline testified today during a nearly six-hour Reno Justice Court hearing, overseen by Tahoe Justice Court Judge Glasson, that a postal employee at one of two local post offices called to alert him of suspicious packages. The packages were short of postage and the return address was illegitimate.
“It was inappropriate. I would not have advised [Clark] to do it.”
“My concern was [whether] the mail was safe for employees,” he said. “The packets had a fictitious address, and most mail was going to prominent addresses — county officials, businesspeople, media outlets. These are not solicited mailings.
“On the extreme case, these could be threatening letters,” Kline added. He also said fictitious names and false representations constitute federal crimes.
“It violates federal law,” Mausert agreed. “It was inappropriate. I would not have advised [Clark] to do it.”
Kline determined the packages were not dangerous but were considered “eccentric.”
He confirmed Clinger did not send them and was able to backtrack from where they were sent by tracing the packages to the individual post offices, reviewing receipts and then video surveillance.
He said that paying nearly $1,200 in cash to mail the packets further raised suspicions.
“People who use cash transactions [often] try to hide the origin of the mailing,” Kline added.
Sheriff’s Office steps in
Separately, the WCSO had started investigating the mailings after being contacted by Manager Brown.
“There was an amount of time spent by this person to mail them,” Sergeant West Urban testified. “Clearly, somebody had spent some time putting this together. The goal was… we were investigating a possible harassment case.”
Urban contacted Kline.
Kline said he had authority to show video footage to county officials who in turn were shocked to see it was Clark who was mailing the documents. Kline asked permission of Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Chief Charles Moore, who had received a packet, to view the contents.
Between Kline and WCSO, it was determined Clark was the culprit.
Employees describe being fearful, objectified and threatened
County Manager Brown said he was friends with Clark prior to the mailings. Clark, he said, had welcomed him into his home after he relocated from Southern California and even went on bike rides on the Truckee River path to see the homelessness problem first hand.
“Honestly, my heart sank,” he said when he saw the video of Clark bringing packages into a post office. “Here was a person who had been a great friend and great resource to me in getting acclimated to the county.”
Brown said he was approached by numerous employees, particularly females, who said they were scared and threatened by the documents.
“I was concerned for the health and safety of our employees. We didn’t know if there were foreign substances associated with it,” Brown said of when the mailings arrived at the county complex. “I immediately wanted to find out if this was an isolated incident… or if it had occurred more broadly in the organization. It was clear to me this was a clear case of harassment.”
Officials said it was clear it was a county employee sending the packets because the packages to county officials were specific in terms of titles, including, allegedly, a recently hired intern. Other packages outside county government, however, were less specific.
The one mailed to This Is Reno did not include our office’s suite number, for example, and was returned to the post office.
A county workplace violence committee meeting was held after dozens of county employees reported getting them, and the Clark mailings were added to the agenda. Committee members unanimously agreed to apply for the TPO.
Manager Brown was asked by attorney Brown if he and Clark were still friends.
“My friends don’t make these kinds of accusations against my employees and workplace,” Manager Brown replied.
Judge slaps down questioning by Clark
Judge Glasson sustained all objections by attorney Brown to Mausert’s questions during today’s hearing. Mausert tried to repeatedly raise what he said were relevant issues about his client’s motivations.
He said Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey and Assistant County Manager Kate Thomas — who were featured prominently in the document — “systematically isolated my client at work,” but Glasson said his questions and testimony needed to be relevant to the TPO.
Mausert also tried to challenge the accuracy of the TPO application. He said the fears expressed by witnesses were “unsupported and subjective. They want to talk about innuendo… The package in large part consists of admissions by various individuals at the [City of Reno].”
That was in reference to the case against former Reno City Manager Clinger, alleging harassment and a hostile work environment. Although that case was settled out of court, it prompted numerous changes at City Hall with respect to human resources and public records practices.
“The content was altogether creepy and disturbing.”
Mausert had witnesses waiting to be called, but none testified. County Commissioner Jeanne Herman, who was sworn in as a witness for Clark, did not answer questions.
Mausert again began addressing other issues to Herman, such as discussions about the Incline Village property tax settlement. Mausert said Clark was iced out of those discussions.
Glasson wasn’t buying it.
“You need to make an offer of proof relevant to the proceedings,” Glasson said.
Herman was excused when Mausert said his questioning and evidence were related to his client’s motivations, questions attorney Brown repeatedly objected to. No other witnesses for Clark were called.
Glasson didn’t mince words when he ruled against Clark:
“The court finds not only were these acts more than reckless, they were intentional,” he said.
He further said Clark’s actions were “objectifying of a county employee, sexualization of a county employee, fetishistic [and] inappropriate. The content was altogether creepy and disturbing.”
CORRECTION: Attorney Brown was incorrectly identified as an assistant district attorney; in fact, he is private attorney hired by the county for this case.
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 appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.