City hall defends the person who destroyed it

Barrie Lynn is a local Realtor and an engaged Reno citizen.

On Jan. 12, 2018, a headline on the front page of the Reno Gazette-Journal read, “City of Reno: Women Concocted Sexual Harassment Complaint to get Clinger Fired.” The headline read like an official reporting of the outcome of this case, but the lawsuit is still in progress with new public documents filed as recently as Jan. 25. That misleading headline was merely a reference to the filing of court documents by the Deputy City Attorney to confirm the City Attorney’s position in the sexual harassment case involving former City Manager Andrew Clinger.

City Attorney Karl Hall, acing on behalf of the City of Reno, stands behind Mr. Clinger in this lawsuit and not behind the women who have accused Clinger of sexual harassment.

The women’s attorney has filed a motion for Karl Hall to recuse himself from the case due to his repeated displays of bias in favor of Mr. Clinger. According to this filing, Mr. Hall referred to the sexual harassment allegations as a “witch hunt” to Councilman Paul McKenzie, who found his comment to be inappropriate. Mr. Hall also breached the City’s anti-retaliation protocol by revealing the identity of one of the accusers to Mr. Clinger. Now Mr. Hall is claiming to represent the City’s position in this lawsuit.

An independent investigation at City Hall led by Judge David Wall in 2016 found that Mr. Clinger did not “technically” commit sexual harassment, but it did identify some of Mr. Clinger’s flagrantly inappropriate behaviors that fostered an unprofessional work environment and ultimately led to the complaints being filed. Numerous city staff members interviewed by Judge Wall reported that Clinger oversaw a gender-biased dynamic at City Hall, rife with female favoritism. Even Mayor Hillary Schieve stated that Clinger “played the women off of each other.” This work environment proved to be dysfunctional, distracting and unproductive for men and women alike.

Mr. Clinger, by his own admission, directed the use of a text-destroying app in his communications with certain staff members. This eliminated the possibility of any of the texts appearing in a public records request. Nearly everyone interviewed by Judge Wall agreed that the use of this app was unacceptable for a city manager who should be promoting a transparent government. Other public filings describe even more instances of inappropriate and gender-biased conduct. City Attorney Karl Hall has taken a dangerous and inappropriate position in defending someone who has demonstrated such appalling behavior and blaming those who suffered from it.

“Sexual harassment” does not just refer to blatant instances of unwelcome physical contact or sexually inappropriate language. An office culture in which management openly engages in flirtatious behavior and relationship-based favoritism creates an unprofessional dynamic that has impacts on the people who engage in it, on those who feel pressured to engage in it, and on those who refuse to engage in it—as well as on those hardworking people who have to stand by and watch it happen. That kind of culture should never have been tolerated, and it certainly shouldn’t be defended by the city attorney now. 

Andrew Clinger has been accused of sexual harassment and retaliation by multiple well-respected and high-ranking women employed by both the State of Nevada and City of Reno. Our elected city attorney, Karl Hall, still defends him while his accusers, and those who merely encouraged them to report their harassment, have been forced to resign from their jobs or have been deemed liars and conspirators.

At an August 2016 City Council meeting, former State Controller Kim Wallin recounted her experience with Clinger’s retaliatory behavior toward her and another state employee, Mary Keating, when Clinger worked for the State of Nevada as Budget Director. Clinger settled with Ms. Keating for $75,000. This incident somehow did not impact his ability to be hired by the City of Reno in 2011. Clinger resigned as Reno City Manager in September 2016 with a hefty $228,000 taxpayer-funded severance package while an internal investigation was still underway. Somehow, after all of this, Andrew Clinger walked back into a state job at the governor’s office early in 2017, with a taxpayer-funded salary, again.

We’re still paying for this run of embarrassing leadership that destroyed morale, caused talented and dedicated City staff to resign, and wasted countless taxpayer dollars. The train wreck Andrew Clinger has left in his path is an episode right out of Reno 911!, a comedy show that depicts Reno as a bungling, mismanaged city. Reno has worked hard to distance itself from association with that image. After Andrew Clinger, we may have to start all over again.