Two former employees file sexual harassment lawsuit against city of Reno

Reno City Hall (Image by Jeff Dietch)

Two former employees have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city of Reno, according to a spokeswoman with the city.

The lawsuit, filed by Maureen McKissick and DeAnna Gescheider, accuses city staff of "[failing] to timely and adequately investigate the hostility plaintiffs endured" during their employment.

The suit also accuses former city manager Andrew Clinger of harassment and retaliatory behavior. The suit alleges he "rubbed the top of [one] plaintiff's thigh a number of times with his hand, in a back and forth motion," at a coffee shop in May last year.

The complaint even makes allegations about Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, saying the mayor knew Clinger had a history of inappropriate behavior. It states "Mayor Schieve described to a number of persons, the manner in which Clinger sexually harassed her." But the lawsuit alleges, despite Schieve's knowledge of the situation, the city failed to properly investigate the sexual harassment complaints against Clinger.

The two plaintiffs say the city improperly put them on administrative leave as an act of retaliation after they filed harassment claims. The city then tried to compel them to return to work "prematurely" just before Thanksgiving, according to the lawsuit.

The Reno City Attorney's Office released the following statement:

Two former City of Reno employees filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the City of Reno. The Reno City Attorney’s Office will vigorously defend and represent the City in this litigation, but has no further comment at this time.

Then City Manager Andrew Clinger resigned from the city of Reno amid sexual harassment allegations in October 2016.

The City of Reno spent nearly $250,000 to hire an outside investigator.

After several months of investigations, David Wall, investigator and a retired judge, concluded in an extensive report that "primary complaints" had merit, but that "secondary complaints, for the most part, lacked merit or simply could not be substantiated."

He wrote:

Almost all of the evidence generated in this investigation is consistent with the belief of many in the City that the complaints were the result of three women acting in concert. It is likely that others, including [REDACTED] and Councilwoman Naomi Duerr, had advance knowledge of the complaints and encouraged the complainants to file.

Wall added that evidence was not consistent with "Clinger's claim that the complaints are evidence of a conspiracy to file entirely false claims."

The allegations against Clinger were first made public in late July 2016. Clinger called them "utterly ridiculous" in a statement. He then took voluntary administrative leave and ultimately announced his resignation in September 2016.

The city also released an earlier report, dated July 22 2016, from Alice Campos Mercado, who did not find evidence that Clinger "violated the City's policy against discrimination, harassment or retaliation."

City Attorney Karl Hall previously said some people found Mercado's report to be incomplete or possibly biased, and the city decided to employ another investigator to address those concerns.

Wall's final report did not include interviews with the three women who filed complaints, starting he made "repeated attempts" to speak with them. However, the city could not reach an agreement with Mark Mausert, the attorney representing the women.

All three women ultimately resigned from their positions at the city.

Mausert is now representing McKissick and Gescheider in their lawsuit against the city.

This is a developing story. Check back with us for updates.

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