Vermillion’s spending record as Henderson councilwoman scrutinized

As a Henderson city councilwoman, Kathleen Vermillion gave thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to local charities through a discretionary fund meant for programs and services to benefit the community.

For Vermillion, that meant everything from ice cream for a neighborhood meeting to donations for her daughter’s high school.

Now, those same expenditures are being scrutinized by the Nevada attorney general’s office, which is reviewing allegations that Vermillion misappropriated funds from the city she represented and the homeless youth charity she founded. Arash Ghafoori, who is now executive director of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, filed the complaint earlier this month.

"Not only did I not misappropriate city funds, I’ve probably been the most fiscally responsible elected official in the city’s entire history when it comes to expending funds," Vermillion said Thursday during a phone interview. "There were some legitimate city expenses I paid for on my own dime."

Those expenses included a printer. She said she needed one in her office but "felt uncomfortable" using taxpayer money to make the purchase.

Henderson city officials are not investigating Vermillion’s expenditures at this time, according to city spokesman Bud Cranor.

"There is no investigation into her or what she has done here," Cranor said. "The donations she made out of her funds, from what we’ve seen, she was able to do. What she did with those beyond that and why she made those donations to those particular places, we can’t say."

Each council member may spend up to $15,500 per fiscal year. The money comes out of the city’s general fund.

Because of the allegations, Councilman Sam Bateman said he wants to revisit discretionary funding to "see if this is the best use of taxpayer dollars" and either tighten up guidelines for spending or do away with the funds.

Vermillion said she never used a city credit card or a cellphone and always "questioned discretionary funds."

"I said from day one it belongs to taxpayers and needs to go back to the community. I sent every dollar to those who needed it the most," Vermillion said.

According to discretionary fund expenditure reports for fiscal 2010 through 2012, Vermillion paid $10,500 in city money to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. Of that money, $7,500 was returned about two weeks after it was given, shortly after Vermillion was elected to office in 2009.

Vermillion said she could not remember why she returned the money and deferred to Richard Derrick, the city’s finance director. Derrick said he didn’t know why Vermillion or the charity gave the $7,500 check back to the city.

Two donations to the charity totaling $3,000 were made in September. The money was meant for two tables for the Veterans in Politics International Valentines Ball and Gala, Vermillion said.

Veterans in Politics, a political group that endorsed Vermillion during her 2009 campaign, also received a $2,000 donation — to sponsor a table for 10 veterans at the upcoming gala.

Other donations over the years include the following:

■ $7,500 to Nevada Hand Inc., which sold a building to the homeless youth partnership.

■ About $3,800 for Green Valley High School to support the school’s sports programs.

■ $2,500 to the Classical Music Education Foundation.

■ $4,000 to Living Grace Home, an organization that provides resources to unwed pregnant teens.

■ $2,000 to Community Baptist Church in Henderson.

■ $10,000 to Boys & Girls Clubs of Henderson.

"It’s attack upon attack," Vermillion said. "Let’s take what little inkling of information we have and make assumptions and accusations and carry things out of control to make her look dishonest. … The accusations are so insane. My reputation is completely ruined. When the AG’s office comes back, this will all be cleared up."

According to an email from Jennifer Lopez, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, "It can take up to 12 weeks for the information to be reviewed."

Vermillion resigned from the Henderson City Council on Jan. 3, saying she wanted to spend more time with her charity and her children. Vermillion’s employment with the charity ended Thursday.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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