Court hearing scheduled in GPS tracker lawsuit
As a hearing approaches in a lawsuit over the surveillance of local politicians, a Reno Democrat claims her family paid another private investigator to look into her primary opponent.
Editor’s note: This story was produced as part of a collaboration among KUNR Public Radio, The Nevada Independent and APM Reports as part of the Public Media Accountability Initiative, which supports investigative reporting at local media outlets around the country.
A Washoe County judge has scheduled a hearing for next month in a case where two local politicians want a private investigator to reveal the name of his client.
Private investigator David McNeely has admitted to Sparks Police that he placed a GPS tracker on Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve’s personal vehicle in the leadup to last year’s midterm election. Former Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung also believes that McNeely tracked him with the same device.
The two politicians are suing McNeely for an invasion of privacy and want District Court Judge David Hardy to compel McNeely to reveal his client. A court appointee tasked with reviewing the case has already recommended McNeely be forced to cough up a name. But so far McNeely’s refused, claiming the information is a trade secret.
The hearing is scheduled for May 1. Lawyers for both sides declined to comment.
McNeely and his lawyer also refuse to say who hired him to investigate a third local politician last summer. An investigation by KUNR, The Nevada Independent and APM Reports revealed last month that McNeely was one of two private investigators asking questions about Washoe County Commissioner Mariluz Garcia’s residency.
Residents of the Wells Avenue district said both men were searching for evidence as to whether Garcia lived in the area, which would have disqualified her candidacy. Garcia owns a rental property in the neighborhood, but lives in downtown Reno. Garcia was overwhelmingly elected in November.
While McNeely won’t disclose who hired him to investigate Garcia, the client for the other private investigator has stepped forward.
Campaign finance reports reveal that Rubina Ahmad hired private investigator Tom Green. Garcia defeated Ahmad’s daughter, Hawah Ahmad, in last year’s Democratic primary for the Board of County Commissioners. Hawah Ahmad filed an amended report last week that includes an in-kind donation of $600 from her mother for “research.”
Ahmad confirmed in an interview that her mother’s donation was to pay for Green’s services. She says her mother was worried about the candidate’s personal safety, but declined to discuss specifics.
Green did not respond to an interview request, but said earlier that it was common for a private investigator to do opposition research. He also stressed that he had “zero to do with McNeely.” Public records also show that GOP donor Robert Beadles and Republican Washoe County Commissioner Michael Clark hired Green last year.
After the story by KUNR, The Nevada Independent and APM Reports published last month, Beadles posted a note on his site that reads, in part, “I never asked nor paid anyone to track, stalk, or monitor the movements of anyone, even though it’s legal, I didn’t.”
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are currently debating legislation that would make it illegal to put a tracking device on someone’s car without their knowledge.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan bill, clearing the way for a full vote by the Assembly. Assemblywoman Jill Dickman (R-Sparks) introduced the measure after she learned about Schieve and Hartung’s lawsuit against McNeely.
The Nevada Senate must also pass the bill and it needs Gov. Joe Lombardo’s signature before it can become law.