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Reno City Council meeting dominated by spats, infighting, allegations

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Several Reno City Council agenda items Wednesday drew caustic commentary among council members that had the mayor ultimately call the meeting into recess. 

The negative commentary is a recurring theme among council members. Mayor Hillary Schieve and Council member Devon Reese frequently lambaste Council member Jenny Brekhus. 

Brekhus is frequently the only council member to vote no on agenda items. She was repeatedly interrupted yesterday by Schieve for going over her allotted three-minute timeframe for commenting on various agenda items.

A spat early in the meeting was over extending the severance package for City Manager Doug Thornley, whose contract is up for renewal.

Brekhus said giving Thornley an extended severance – from five to 12 months – was occurring while he is allegedly under investigation for allegations she made against him.

“I am opposed to this provision of the enhanced severance with full knowledge that the council knows, and I know, because I’ve been interviewed by an investigator about violation of retaliation,” she said, adding that extending the severance length was “fiscally irresponsible” and not within industry standards.

Brekhus was the lone council member to give Thornley a negative evaluation for the second year. She said she filed a complaint after allegedly witnessing him drinking alcohol in his office in 2021.

Thornley would not comment to This Is Reno about the investigation. 

Retaliation alleged

Brekhus said she’s since hired an attorney because “retaliation has ramped up so much over the last year.” She cited as an example a March 16 vehicle accident and being required to take a drug and alcohol test after the incident. 

“The City’s past practice has not been, nor would it be allowed by policy, to test every employee involved in every accident,” her attorney, Ron Dreher, claimed.

The announcement of an investigation appeared as news to other council members.

Deputy City Attorney Jonathan Shipman would not comment on the investigation, saying the topic was not on the agenda. 

“We can have a conversation offline about that, but you know, I don’t think we’re agendized to talk about that or to talk about … particular character competence,” he said.

Brekhus did not attend the June meeting when Thornley was given a positive evaluation and a $20,000 raise. She said she had to be out of town for a family commitment but provided her review in writing. 

 “Unbelievable. Childish. Uncalled for. I’m so disappointed and frankly disgusted.”Meghan Ebert, Reno City Council member

Dreher wrote a letter to Reno City Attorney Karl Hall in May requesting retaliation against Brekhus to be investigated.

“An accident investigation was conducted by the Nevada Highway Patrol and Council member Brekhus was not found at fault or cited for the accident,” he wrote. 

That statement was about an incident when Brekhus was at a public event and accidentally backed into somebody.

“During this investigation she was advised that she could not have access to witness statements until the investigation was completed,” Dreher added. “However, on March 22, 2023, the Nevada Independent released a news story about the accident that included a copy of the witness statement provided to the City of Reno on March 16, 2023. 

“It is obvious that the statement was leaked to tarnish Council member Brekhus’ reputation, and this could only have been driven by political and personal motivations.”

He said that since then, there have been “clear violations” of city policies related to retaliation.

Brekhus’ commentary prompted Reese to accuse her of harassment. He also said the past city manager was “perhaps” “run out of town” by Brekhus.

“I will be supporting this extension and believed that the spurious and false allegations raised by one of the members of this body have no truth or bearing on that truth,” Reese claimed. “It’s a continued pattern and practice of harassment that this particular member has engaged in with many members of the city council and with members of the staff over a course of 10 years.”

Meghan Ebert, Reno City Council member. Image: City of Reno.
Meghan Ebert, Reno City Council member. Image: City of Reno.

He then said that Brekhus’ “tyranny will soon end” due to term limits, mentioning she narrowly prevailed in the last election.

Council member Meghan Ebert called Reese’s comments childish and uncalled for.

“I’m just blown away by the comments about people’s election results,” she said. “[It’s] so completely unnecessary, so completely uncalled for, especially considering we have two people in this body right now that were appointed. I don’t see the relevance of calling out people’s election results from two years ago.

“And talking about when somebody’s going to be gone and how relieved you’ll be about it,” she added. “Unbelievable. Childish. Uncalled for. I’m so disappointed and frankly disgusted.”

People in council chambers clapped in response to Ebert’s remarks. During a discussion on the new city ward, Ebert also complained that Council member Taylor was being purposely rude as well.

The council approved the city manager’s severance extension.

Schieve said politics is divisive.

“It’s unfortunate that we have gotten to this point,” she said. 

Later in the meeting, she continued to criticize Brekhus for what she said was spreading false information and crafting conspiracies.

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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