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City Council Approves Outside Firm To Investigate Alleged Misconduct

Bob Conrad, This Is Reno

Reno City Council is appointing an independent counsel to review complaints of alleged misconduct by City Manager Andrew Clinger.

During a special meeting on Thursday, the council voted unanimously to hire an outside law firm to conduct an investigation.

Mayor Hillary Schieve said the gravity of the allegations warrants the additional scrutiny.

"This council takes these allegations extremely serious, and we believe in bold transparency," said Schieve. "I also think we need to do this thoroughly and properly for everyone's sake. At this time, I'd like to ask everyone to please, please respect the process."

Three city employees have filed sexual harassment complaints against Clinger, who has denied the allegations.

Several council members questioned the process of the first investigation, and why Clinger had not been placed on administrative leave.

Schieve said they may call another meeting to discuss further action, but wanted to hire outside counsel first.

The council approved the contract for up to $50,000. The investigation could take up to a month.

Questions Raised

During the meeting Thursday, several city council members raised concerns over the city's handling of the investigation so far. 

A total of four complaints have been lodged against Clinger since June 29, but members of City Council weren't made aware of the those allegations until mid-July.

City Councilwoman Naomi Duerr said they still don't know the nature of the allegations.

"To this date, we've not been provided with a copy of the complaint, or complaints," she said. "I didn't know until just now, when Mr. Hall went through the process, when the complaints were even lodged."

Councilman Paul McKenzie also took issue with Clinger remaining in a supervisory role during the initial investigation, grilling the city attorney on the city's protocol.

"Normally, if it was a supervisor in public works that had the complaint filed against him, would you leave that supervisor overseeing the employees during the complaint process?" asked McKenzie.

"You know, I think that's a case-by-case evaluation," replied City Attorney Karl Hall. "Once the facts were known, I think you'd have to take action, once you have the facts before you."

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus said she plans to call for a separate meeting to ask that Clinger be put on administrative leave pending a new investigation.

William Peterson, an attorney representing the complainants, has accused the city of trying to avoid public scrutiny during its initial review. He said leaving Clinger in a supervisory role was especially unusual.

"It's not customary, and the reason why you don't do that is because it obviously creates an atmosphere, or the potential for, intimidation — an appearance of intimidation or actual intimidation," he said. 

Peterson said his clients were also threatened with termination if they spoke publicly about the case, a standard, he points out, Clinger has not been held to.

Clinger has called the allegations "utterly ridiculous" and given several interviews to media since the news broke over the weekend.

"I'm in a position where my reputation means a lot to me, so for me to be able to defend these frivolous allegations in public, I think, is my right," said Clinger.

Clinger said the first investigation cleared him of wrongdoing, but would not question City Council if it decides to place him on leave pending another review.

"If they come back and say the process was flawed, I am happy to step aside while they continue," he said.

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.