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Ex-Henderson councilwoman sues Sisolak as charity’s troubles continue

Former Henderson City Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion has filed a lawsuit that accuses Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, her ex-boyfriend and a major contributor to the charity she founded, of disseminating her personal health records.

In a telephone interview Friday, Sisolak called the lawsuit an attempt to deflect attention away from allegations that Vermillion, founder and chief operating officer of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, has misappropriated funds.

"The saddest thing about this is that a charity that has done great things for a lot of kids that are in desperate need of services is going to be negatively impacted," the commissioner said. "It’s very sad."

Sisolak said the lawsuit has no merit, although he acknowledged that its description of his on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Vermillion, formerly known as Kathleen Boutin, is accurate. The relationship began about five years ago.

Vermillion filed the lawsuit late Thursday, several hours after the Las Vegas Review-Journal called to question her about a complaint filed against her and the charity with the Nevada attorney general’s office.

In the complaint, Arash Ghafoori, interim executive director of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, alleges Vermillion has misappropriated funds of the organization and the city of Henderson. It also alleges restricted donations to the charity have not been used for their intended purpose.

Vermillion called the allegations "fake" and said she welcomed an investigation by the attorney general’s office.

According to Ghafoori’s complaint, she has placed him on paid administrative leave.

Vermillion, who is represented by attorneys Robert Martin and Cheryl Bradford, filed her lawsuit against Sisolak and Clark County. According to the document, the partnership’s board conducted a December meeting in which Ghafoori’s performance was discussed. At the meeting, both he and Vermillion agreed to take a drug test.

Vermillion’s result "was positive for a synthetic opiate compound," according to her lawsuit.

"Ms. Vermillion had recently taken some pain relievers for a severe migraine headache," the lawsuit said. "Ms. Vermillion obtained a pain reliever from Sisolak’s sister, Susan Sisolak, while they were out for dinner."

The document suggests the pills from Sisolak’s sister caused the positive test results.

A partnership board member disclosed the results to Sisolak, who disseminated the results "to multiple individuals at the Clark County government offices," the lawsuit alleges.

"I have not even seen them myself, much less shared them with anyone," Sisolak said of the test results.

He also said he has spoken to his sister, and she denied giving Vermillion any drugs.

Clark County released the following statement Friday in response to Vermillion’s lawsuit:

"The complaint is frivolous on its face, completely without merit, and is of questionable motivation since it acknowledges that people other than the defendants actually disseminated the information in question before it reached the county."

Sisolak, 58, said he ended his relationship with Vermillion, 44, in October.

"I have no animosity," he said. "I wish her all the best."

He said he never saw Vermillion take any drugs during their relationship. He also said he knows nothing about funds being misappropriated.

After the couple broke up, Vermillion’s lawsuit alleges, "Sisolak attempted to carry on improper and secretive relationships with Vermillion’s family including her minor daughter."

Sisolak said he knows nothing about that allegation. He said he "was very close" with both of her teenage children.

"I’ve tried to be a good role model and supportive of them in their personal and academic activities," he said.

Sisolak said he had no idea before reading recent Review-Journal stories that Vermillion had an adopted son, although he has met the young man, who is 20.

The commissioner said Vermillion told him to stay away from her children after he broke up with her, and he respected her wishes.

However, her 19-year-old son has called him several times. The two men saw each other in December, when Sisolak gave him Christmas gift cards for all three children.

He said Vermillion’s daughter later sent a text message to thank him for her gift card. He said he has not met with the 15-year-old girl, although he saw her with her mother at a County Commission meeting nearly three weeks ago.

The claims in Vermillion’s lawsuit include negligence as to Sisolak, defamation and invasion of privacy.

Sisolak said he has donated more than $200,000 to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth during the past several years because he believed in the charity. He said he donated $7,500 in December for a Christmas party.

"I was a donor who also had a relationship with Kathleen," Sisolak said. "We no longer have a relationship."

The county approved a $214,000 grant for the charity earlier this week. Sisolak abstained.

Vermillion resigned from the Henderson City Council on Jan. 3, saying she wanted to spend more time with the charity and her children. She said her 19-year-old son recently had been convicted of a misdemeanor drunken driving charge in Henderson and was undergoing treatment at a sober living facility.

Vermillion blamed her son’s troubles partly on her council and charity jobs — both of which require significant time away from home. She was elected to the City Council in June 2009.

At least seven of the charity’s board members have resigned since late December, when treasurer Greg Esposito submitted his resignation.

"Greg Esposito currently sits on a governmental board at the discretion of Sisolak and is a friend of Sisolak," according to Vermillion’s lawsuit.

Esposito serves on the Clark County Planning Commission.

Vermillion explained her decision to place Ghafoori on leave in an email she sent to him on Jan. 3.

"This action is solely due to an allegation that you shared employee health related information with a representative of Clark County," Vermillion wrote.

Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle contributed to this report. Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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