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Judge dismisses Council member Brekhus’ lawsuit against city

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A lawsuit filed late last year by Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus was denied Wednesday by Second Judicial District Court Judge David Hardy. Brekhus requested an administrative hearing to investigate whether she had been retaliated against. She requested an investigation of various allegations at City Hall, including whether she had been retaliated against for raising concerns.

A consultant hired to investigate her concerns found that she was the source of many problems that led to her being prevented by City Manager Doug Thornley from directly communicating with city staff. 

Brekhus requested the hearing, claiming retaliation, and Hardy granted the city’s motion to dismiss the case. The Reno City Council approved up to $150,000 to defend the city against Brekhus’ petition.

“The predominant issue before this Court is whether Ms. Brekhus waived her right to challenge the October 20, 2022, decision prohibiting her from interacting with city staff when she failed to timely request the appointment of a special administrative hearing officer,” Hardy wrote. “This Court is persuaded by the city’s position. The subsequent denial of contact with city staff was the implementation of the policy that Ms. Brekhus believes to be retaliatory.

“This Court agrees with Ms. Brekhus is attempting to insert into the code the concept that a request for hearing must be made within 60 days of the ‘last act’ of retaliation,” he added. “It is nonsensical that each denial of access to staff members flowing from the alleged retaliatory decision would be a discrete act of retaliation independent of the October 20, 2022, policy decision. It would also allow Ms. Brekhus to look back in time to resuscitate a claim that was time-barred.”

Brekhus, in response to the lawsuit dismissal, told This Is Reno that she filed the complaint out of fear.

“Putting this claim into the spotlight was a way to prevent additional retaliatory actions against me as I serve out my term,” she said. “Last spring, internal affairs officers from two agencies told me, ‘I have enemies at city hall’ as reasoning why law enforcement was called to investigate me, why that investigation was tampered with, and why I was wrongly directed to take a drug/alcohol test. That put a chill in me. 

“At each stage, I went through the city processes and outlined specifics to Mayor Schieve and the Council.  They turned my claims against me in a damaging report that was not independent,” she added. “Most disturbing is that staff members under [City Manager Doug] Thornley’s direction were enlisted to make after-the-fact statements about me.  

“The judge’s ruling relieves these people of having to testify about the pressure they received to participate in the biased report. As I did not relish having to further place these staff members into a compromised position under cross-exam, the judge’s ruling is not an entire loss to me.”

Thornley called the lawsuit unfounded and unnecessary.

“This decision allows us to move forward without another unfounded and unnecessary distraction,” he said. “We can now continue the actual work. The City and I have always been committed to ensuring our staff is treated professionally and with decency.”   

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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