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VIDEO: Private investigator says tracking Reno mayor with GPS unit was ‘nothing personal’ 

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A private investigator who put a GPS tracking unit on Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve’s car last year said he was hired as part of a political campaign and it’s “nothing personal” toward the mayor.

It’s also not illegal.

The GPS unit’s sim card linked the private investigator to the tracking device after it was discovered on Schieve’s car by a mechanic.

The investigator, David McNeely, was interviewed in November by Sparks police. A copy of the interview was obtained by This Is Reno as a public records request. In the interview, McNeely said he was hired to track Schieve to investigate an allegation as part of a political campaign. 

“I know they are going to initiate some shit,” he told detectives last year. “It’s one of the biggest tools that I have. Hopefully she’s not too upset about it.”

McNeely, who also told police he was the stepson of former Sparks Mayor Ron Smith, said there was no physical surveillance and he was looking at whether she was at certain locations.

“I’ve never had any involvement with her whatsoever,” he told detectives. “She seems to be doing what mayors are supposed to do. She seems like a pretty good person. [It’s] nothing personal.”

Schieve is suing McNeely and is seeking damages above $15,000. A judge recently granted a subpoena for McNeely to identify his client after he refused to accept service of the lawsuit.

Schieve was also interviewed by police. She told them it’s alarming that a private investigator can legally place a GPS unit on somebody’s car to monitor them but police have to get a warrant.

Sparks police: No crime, no conflict of interest

Sparks police investigated the matter. Sparks Police Chief Chris Crawforth told This Is Reno that no crime occurred when a GPS tracking device was discovered. 

He also denied allegations Sparks police gave Schieve favorable treatment by having two detectives investigate that matter, issuing subpoenas to AT&T and Verizon and providing information to Schieve. 

Crawforth said his agency handled the investigation into the GPS tracker to avoid any conflict of interest with Reno police. The determination of whether a crime occurred was if the tracking device was placed on Schieve’s vehicle at a private setting.

“Had it been placed on her vehicle at a private residence, that would have been a criminal act,” he said. “We determined that was not the case.”

“A tracker is not a common thing. It’s pretty scary for anybody.”Sparks Police Chief Chris Crawforth

When asked how information collected in the investigation was provided to Schieve, he said it was through a public records request. The records were made available after the investigation was concluded, he added.

Sparks Police Chief Chris Crawforth.
Sparks Police Chief Chris Crawforth.

Schieve is suing McNeely. Her attorney, Adam Hosmer-Henner, said he would not comment. Schieve’s civil lawsuit against McNeely is based on privacy intrusions “as it would cause any reasonable person significant fear and distress.”

“The District of Nevada explicitly held that the installation of a GPS tracker implicates the tort of invasion of privacy,” the lawsuit alleges. “The dissemination of the information obtained by Plaintiff would cause a reasonable person to fear death, bodily injury, harassment, stalking, financial loss, or a substantial life disruption.”

A local private investigator and former Washoe County Sheriff’s detective questioned why Sparks Police provided the information to Schieve since no crime had occurred.

“I think it was inappropriate to tell the Mayor who owned the tracker since their own reports say no crime occurred,” Tom Green said. “In the report, the SPD admits they got not only the subscriber info. of the tracker, they obtained all of the data stored in his account, including the tracks stored with the company of the tracker’s whereabouts. That also exceeds what is allowed by law within the framework of the subpoena.”

Copies of two subpoenas by Sparks police to AT&T and Verizon Wireless were provided to This Is Reno. 

“In furtherance of a criminal investigation conducted by the Sparks Police Department, and in accordance with [federal and state laws], you are commanded to provide subscriber information and call detail records” for the device, the documents noted.

Crawforth said his agency handled the case like they would for anyone.

“The big concern for us, for anyone, mayor or not mayor, is whether someone’s life is in jeopardy,” he said. “A tracker is not a common thing. It’s pretty scary for anybody.”

Crawforth was one of two people recently up for the Reno police chief position but turned down the job.

“I was offered the Reno Police Chief and have declined to accept it,” he wrote in an email to Sparks police staff. “In short, the City of Reno and I were unable to come to a compromise in the employment agreement to assure some security that would allow me the autonomy to make the changes I believe need to occur.

“For me, this was about improving law enforcement in this region, nothing more, nothing less,” he added. “Meaning, Sparks has always led this valley and we will continue to do so. I was hoping that I could sprinkle a bit of Sparks dust on Reno and make this whole region safer.”

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.

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