$480,000 settlement approved

CARSON CITY -- A state panel approved without comment Tuesday a $480,000 payment to a Nevada Highway Patrol captain to settle a 2006 federal civil rights case alleging sexual harassment and misconduct by former officials.

The Board of Examiners, including Gov. Jim Gibbons, voted unanimously to approve the agreement with Capt. Jacquelyn Sandage to settle the lawsuit that alleged sexual harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation, among other claims.

Sandage, the first woman promoted to captain in the history of the Nevada Highway Patrol, filed her complaint in late 2006.

The complaint was filed just months after the former chief of the Nevada Highway Patrol resigned and one of his majors was demoted, after the Department of Public Safety completed an investigation into allegations that they sexually harassed Sandage.

Col. David Hosmer, 50, resigned, and Maj. Robert Wideman, 49, chief of the Northern Nevada command, was demoted.

After the meeting, Gibbons said he directed his cabinet to review policies and ensure measures were in place to prevent sexual harassment in the state workforce soon after being sworn in as governor in January 2007.

"I am very, very comfortable that we have undertaken the strongest possible effort to make sure that we've covered those bases," he said.

Even a strong policy does not preclude the possibility that an employee may act inappropriately, however, Gibbons said.

Newly appointed Department of Public Safety Director Jerry Hafen asked for the settlement to bring the matter to a close.

A source familiar with the terms of the settlement said Sandage will retain her rank and continue her work with the Department of Public Safety in the director's office, focusing on special projects including homeland security.

Reno attorney Mark Mausert, representing Sandage, said the settlement was a good decision by the state. A jury verdict could have cost substantially more, he said.

"I think (Sandage) will produce very fine work and the state will benefit a great deal," he said. "She is one of the hardest working people I've ever seen. She has had a long productive career, not withstanding certain difficulties. The state is moving forward with addressing the problem. At least I hope they are."

The complaint predates the current administration of the Public Safety Department and the Nevada Highway Patrol.

In her complaint filed in November 2006, Sandage cited numerous examples of inappropriate comments made by Hosmer and others, and said the Department of Public Safety did nothing to correct the behavior.