Kathleen Vermillion stood behind her daughter’s allegations against Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak Wednesday, even as the girl’s father said she was coaxed into lying.
The latest developments in the legal and public relations battle between the former Henderson city councilwoman and her ex-boyfriend included details that Sisolak secretly recorded the Sunday meeting that he had called a "shake down" to extort money from him.
Burt Boutin, the 15-year-old girl’s father and Vermillion’s ex-husband, said in a statement released Wednesday that his daughter made up accusations about Sisolak having an inappropriate relationship with her.
"I have spoken with my daughter about the allegations that have been leveled against Steve Sisolak. She told me the allegations are false," Boutin said in a news release.
He said Vermillion, lawyer Robert Martin and public relations manager Mark Fierro placed his daughter "in the middle of all this for their own personal benefit."
"In a desperate move, Kathleen and her advisors managed to coax my daughter into appearing on a video," Boutin wrote. "My daughter thought she was helping her mother and did not realize the harm that it would cause."
In a heavily edited video released Monday by Vermillion’s legal and public relations team, her daughter answered questions about her relationship with Sisolak, whom she called "weird" and "a scumbag."
The teenager said he had her model bathing suits for him, took her on a "movie date," texted her late at night and showered her with lavish gifts. The teen said that Sisolak was "obsessed with her looks and how she dressed" and that he continued the relationship with her even after he and Vermillion ended their rocky five-year romance in October.
"I didn’t want to think about him being attracted to me," the girl said in the video. "He’s a liar. He’s somebody you shouldn’t trust. He’s grimy."
Sisolak has denied any wrongdoing and said his actions were those of any father figure.
Boutin’s statement said Sisolak "acted as a gentleman to both of my children and to me" during his relationship with Vermillion.
Later Wednesday, Vermillion stood by her daughter’s statements but second-guessed the decision to record the deposition and release the video to the news media.
She said she "had no idea it would get so bad for my daughter," who missed two days of school after her face and name were publicized by other media outlets.
The Review-Journal has withheld the girl’s identity because of her age.
"We regret doing the deposition, but we stand by the content of the deposition," Vermillion said.
Sisolak commended Boutin’s statement.
"I give Burt Boutin the utmost credit for being the first one to stand up for his daughter and protect her and do the right thing," Sisolak said. "I feel horrible that she has been put in this position by three people who call themselves adults."
The first public allegation of an improper relationship came Jan. 19 when Vermillion sued Sisolak and the county in District Court, alleging he gossiped to county officials about her positive drug test for a synthetic opiate, which she has attributed to taking pain relievers given to her for a severe migraine headache.
She said Wednesday her test was positive for low levels of methadone.
"I can tell you I’m not a heroin addict," she said.
Vermillion said she agreed to take the drug test at the December meeting of the board of directors for the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, the charity she founded. The charity’s interim director, Arash Ghafoori, also took a drug test.
On Jan. 11, Ghafoori filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office accusing Vermillion of misusing the charity’s funds.
Three days after Vermillion’s lawsuit was filed, Sisolak met with Vermillion’s representatives in Fierro’s office.
What happened at the meeting has been publicly disputed, with Sisolak calling it an extortion attempt for $3.9 million and Vermillion’s lawyer calling it a legal "settlement conference."
Both sides have also disputed who called the meeting. In a statement released Wednesday, Martin said Sisolak’s lawyer requested the meeting and knew finances would be discussed.
Sisolak said if the meeting were intended to discuss settling the lawsuit, it would have been held in a law office during normal business hours. Before the meeting, he had also heard that Vermillion’s camp already had planned a news conference for the day after the meeting.
Sisolak’s lawyer, Laura Fitzsimmons, wrote in a sworn statement given to police that Martin told her "Steve would be shown ‘where this was going to go’ unless he agreed to pay Kathleen money before the press conference."
Believing her client was walking into a "shake down," she had Sisolak wear a secret audio recorder.
"I was wired," Sisolak said. "A tape was made and immediately went to my lawyer and the police that night. When they alleged I had an inappropriate relationship with her minor child, I knew there was none. So I wanted to know what they said. I walked into the meeting wired, just for audio, and the tape was turned over to Metro."
Sisolak said Martin and Fierro showed him the video of Vermillion’s daughter and demanded $3.9 million to "make it all go away and save my political career."
Fierro and Martin acknowledged that Sisolak did nothing criminal but said the video would damage his political career, according to a police report.
On Wednesday, the commissioner said he wasn’t too concerned about any political damage stemming from the week’s events.
"I’m confident people will see this for what it is, the act of a troubled woman and a less-than-reputable PR firm and attorney," he said.
Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith and reporter Kristi Jourdan contributed to this report. Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.