69.5 F

Karma Box’s Denton cleared in ‘limited’ investigation into allegations (updated)


As promised, an investigation announced last week into allegations made against Karma Box’s executive director was swift. Both sides of the case—Karma Box’s Grant Denton and his detractors—called the results of the investigation “expected.” 

That’s because investigator Sandra Ketner of the Simons Hall Johnston law firm was “instructed to investigate whether any such conduct and behavior occurred at Safe Camp, affected Denton’s contractual obligations related to Safe Camp, and/or otherwise violated the Washoe County Code of Conduct,” she wrote.

The results were made public on Wednesday, and no evidence of wrongdoing at the Safe Camp was found.

“[T]here was no corroborating evidence to support allegations of sexual misconduct by Denton with respect to Safe Camp participants or otherwise on campus,” Ketner wrote. “Likewise, there was no evidence to substantiate allegations of derogatory, threatening, or violent conduct by Denton with Safe Camp participants or otherwise on campus.”

Critics alleged Denton has engaged in predatory behavior, particularly toward women. The public allegations against Denton, however, had little to do with Safe Camp, the tiny home portion of the Nevada Cares Campus. 

That’s why critics—most of whom refused to comment on the record—said the investigation’s results were predictable. According to Ketner, Safe Camp residents overwhelmingly like Denton, with a few calling him “a good guy.” One called him a “gentleman and a scholar,” and another noted that Denton called out those who made hateful comments about a transgender resident. He was praised for being tough but fair.

“The outcome was very predictable based on the limited scope of the investigation.”

Ketner noted that Denton, however, did not keep the investigation private and “this group of [Safe Camp employee] witnesses was less impartial than initially anticipated.”

In the wake of the investigation’s announcement, more people came forward with complaints against Denton. Others, however, wrote and posted online comments in support of Denton.

“If people were worried about Grant’s behavior, they should have reported immediately to the proper authorities,” wrote Monica DuPea with the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project. “Waiting and then bringing it up in public comment and on social media seems more like an attempt to harm him and his reputation. The targeted campaign against Grant appears to stem from long-standing jealousy and resentment over his achievements rather than genuine concern for misconduct.”

Denton said the investigation results were expected, and he did nothing wrong.

Washoe County Commissioner Mike Clark. Image: Washoe County.
Washoe County Commissioner Mike Clark. Image: Washoe County.

“This is taking a lot out of me, and I just [want it] to be done,” he told This Is Reno, addind that he did not want to comment further.

Ketner said she had “not been tasked to provide disciplinary recommendations or any operational recommendations based on allegations or my investigation results.” County officials said they do not have the authority to investigate issues outside Karma Box’s contract work with the county. 

Washoe County Commissioner Mike Clark also called the results predictable, and he was critical of the investigation. 

“The outcome was very predictable based on the limited scope of the investigation,” he said. “I think it was designed to do exactly what it did.”

Read the original story below.

County launches investigation into Karma Box executive after complaints, allegations

Washoe County last week launched an investigation into Grant Denton, founder of Karma Box Project, over alleged inappropriate behavior with women, particularly those in recovery from addiction. Several people have recently commented online and at a Washoe Board County of Commissioners meeting, calling Denton a womanizer and “predator.”

He vehemently denied the allegations, and most making the comments would not speak on the record, even after submitting statements to local politicians requesting an investigation. Denton hired an attorney who threatened to sue one woman, his ex-girlfriend, if she continued making public comments about him. The woman is one of two who spoke during public comment at the county’s May 28 meeting

Karma Box runs the safe camp portion of the Nevada Cares Campus. At the May 28 meeting, commissioners approved updated contracts with its contractors Karma Box, RISE and Volunteers of America. These nonprofits provide services to those experiencing homelessness. Those making complaints about Denton appeared to want the county to deny an updated contract with Karma Box.

Natalie Henriques read a letter during public comment from John Opalinski, who works for Bristlecone Family Resources and is a board member with Reps4Recovery. He said he wrote the statement to the commissioners as an individual, not a representative of either organization.

“Several credible reports have surfaced indicating that Mr. Denton engages in inappropriate and degrading conduct towards women,” Opalisnki wrote. “These actions include, but are not limited to, making demeaning and derogatory comments, courting women in the very early stages of their sobriety, and fat-shaming them. Such behavior is not only deeply disrespectful and harmful but also completely unacceptable for someone in a position of leadership and trust within our community.” 

“He’s a very aggressive guy.”

Opalinski told This Is Reno he is aware of longstanding “serious infractions” involving Denton that have not been investigated because of his status in the community. He said he wanted an investigation into Denton’s clientele and subordinates in the workplaces he’s worked. 

“He’s a very aggressive guy,” Opalisnki said, adding that Denton is “overtly coercive.” 

The board of commissioners voted to approve the updated contracts, including for Karma Box, which gave cost-of-living raises to the employees of the nonprofits. Only Commissioner Mike Clark voted against the item, citing the allegations against Denton. He said the single agenda item for all three nonprofits should have been broken out.

“I think if there is any cloud of … accusations … we should be able to look at that [and] put this on hold until we can get to the bottom of it,” he said. 

Our Town Reno first reported on the situation.

‘They’re actively coming for me’

Denton’s past in Las Vegas, in which he faced several criminal charges — mostly misdemeanors — including at least one felony charge for domestic violence. He served jail time for a second domestic battery offense in 2011, according to City of Henderson court records. Denton pleaded no contest but was arrested again in that case after failing to pay a warrant.

Denton told This Is Reno that his past as a drug addict who was homeless is part of “lived experience,” a characteristic homeless advocates frequently request of those working with the unsheltered populations.

“I was on the streets. I have lived experience. I was drug-addicted. I didn’t behave the best, but I turned my life around,” he said. “I’m being villainized for my past, and that’s not fucking fair.”

“What [the accusers are] doing to me is a fucking witch hunt, and it’s fucking wrong.”

Denton’s arrival in the Reno area saw him quickly build programs to help those in need while seeking positive media coverage for his efforts. He worked for a short time with the downtown Reno ambassadors, and by the pandemic, he was running the river stewards program and ultimately got Karma Box as a county vendor to offer services at the safe camp. 

His Karma Box Project lost its nonprofit status last year after failing to submit the required paperwork. Denton blamed a staff member for the oversight. 

Denton said his past is what makes him successful in dealing with vulnerable populations, and his critics are weaponizing social media and local politicians against him.

“It’s outrageous. I don’t know even know how to respond [to the allegations],” he said, adding he’s never been with women in early recovery, as alleged, or that he’s ever fat-shamed people.  

“You have to develop relationships with people on the streets,” he added. “What [the accusers are] doing to me is a fucking witch hunt, and it’s fucking wrong. I’ve never done anything like that. Some of my best mentors were women. It’s all false, and it’s not fair.”

Opalinski said many fear Denton and his connections with local politicians and government officials, who frequently help promote his work.

Reno Council member Kathleen Taylor and Grant Denton earlier this year.
Reno Council member Kathleen Taylor and Grant Denton earlier this year. Facebook screenshot.

“He’s very well connected,” he told This Is Reno. “A lot of these people work in the recovery community. Their fear is that they will lose their job and not work for nonprofits for recovery in Reno. He’s got a very, very short fuse. I hope the county does a thorough investigation.”

‘He’s protected’

Denton sent a cease-and-desist letter to his ex-girlfriend after she went public with what she said were concerns about his behavior. A personal trainer, the woman said she and Denton were in an “on-and-off” relationship for about a year. She said she ended the relationship in April. 

She further said Denton is still taking substances, including “illegal steroids. I even witnessed him obtaining these illegal substances for others,” she said. 

Denton said he is partaking in testosterone replacement therapy, which he said was common for men his age in recovery who have low testosterone. The woman was sent a letter by an attorney hired by Denton threatening to take legal action against her. Denton accused the woman of stalking him.

“Washoe County doesn’t have legal authority over Grant Denton’s personal relationships.”

“Mr. Denton is a well-respected member of the community and has spent the last decade working to improve the lives of the disenfranchised,” attorney Cody Marriott wrote. “As you are also aware, since Mr. Denton ended his relationship with you, you have begun exhibiting disturbing behavior that includes, but is not limited to: showing up at places that Mr. Denton works, showing up places [sic] that Mr. Denton is affiliated with, showing up at gyms that Mr. Denton works out, and have made several untrue statements about Mr. Denton to numerous public entities and people in the Northern Nevada community.

“Therefore, you are hereby on notice that if you do not immediately CEASE AND DESIST from undertaking your current acts, Mr. Denton will commence litigation to prove that your statements are lies and intended only to harm his reputation,” Marriott continued.

The woman disputed the letter and said she attempts to avoid Denton as much as possible.

“I was, at times, very apprehensive about Denton’s relationship behaviors, but his platform and backing by political figures and established community members alleviated my concerns,” she told the commissioners on May 28.

She claimed Marriott’s cease-and-desist letter contained falsehoods and lies; for example, it stated that Denton broke up with her, which she said wasn’t the case.

Investigation criticized

County officials said an attorney has been hired to investigate Denton, but only his conduct with Cares Campus clients would be investigated, which was immediately criticized as insufficient. 

“Grant has agreed to not come to the Safe Camp while the investigation is being conducted,” Washoe County Manager Eric Brown wrote on May 31 in an email posted by Picon Press. “We expect the investigation to get underway early next week, and it will likely be completed by the end of the week.”

By mid-day Tuesday, however, people involved said they had not been contacted as part of an investigation. Washoe County’s Bethany Drysdale confirmed to This Is Reno that only conduct with Safe Camp clients will be investigated. However, none of the complaints This Is Reno received about Denton related to his work at Safe Camp.

“Washoe County doesn’t have legal authority over Grant Denton’s personal relationships,” she said. “It is not a general investigation into his past relationships, conduct or matters not related to the Safe Camp,” Drysdale said. 

Attorney Sandra Ketner of the Simons Hall Johnston law firm is conducting the investigation. 

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.