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Report details sexual harassment claims against public defender

Updated September 11, 2018 - 7:50 pm

Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn discussed his female employees’ “provocative dress,” the “size of their breasts” and “what he would like to do to them,” according to a sexual harassment investigation’s findings released Tuesday.

The release of the two-page summary report comes days after County Manager Yolanda King told public defender employees she is switching the assistant county manager overseeing Kohn and his department, according to an email obtained by the Review-Journal.

Kohn, 67, could not be reached on his cellphone Tuesday. King declined to comment.

The summary, dated July 9, detailed the findings of an investigation into Kohn by attorney Robert Freeman of the Lewis Brisbois law firm in Las Vegas. The investigation began in March after county commissioners received an anonymous letter that claimed Kohn was “often inappropriate with many of the women who work in the office.”

“Mr. Kohn was reported as spending excessive time in their offices, showing favoritism, and trying to act as a personal advisor,” the report states. “He also discussed with others during work conversations his off-topic observations on how beautiful these employees are.”

The report states that Freeman interviewed Kohn and 20 current and former employees of the public defender’s office. The names of everyone except Kohn were redacted.

The employees told investigators that Kohn often prefaced his statements with “I probably shouldn’t say this.” And while many of the workers said that Kohn is a good boss, “nearly every person interviewed admitted that Mr. Kohn sometimes acts inappropriately.”

The investigation found that Kohn showed inappropriate attention to “dark-haired women” and that he repeatedly asked one female employee about her sexual orientation.

Some employees said Kohn made them uncomfortable by standing too close to them or striking a “Captain Morgan” pose, in which he would expose his “crotch area” by swinging one of his legs over a chair arm or propping a leg up on a table.

Kohn said he had heard complaints about the pose before but continued to stand that was because “it provides him some relief from back pain,” according to the report.

Three employees said they found Kohn to be vindictive and they feared being demoted or passed over for promotions if they complained about his behavior.

They told investigators that Kohn “feels he is untouchable because of his close relationship with his supervising assistant county manager” Jeff Wells.

The claims were unsubstantiated, according to the report. However, King told public defender employees via email last week that Wells will no longer oversee the office. Assistant County Manager Kevin Schiller is taking his place.

King did not write in the email why the change was made but did say that the county will not tolerate any retaliation from Kohn once he returned to work. King reminded the staff that they could file additional complaints with either her or the county’s Office of Diversity.

“I am hearing quite a bit of chatter that there may be much more occurring in the office than what was noted in the anonymous letter,” she wrote. “I must remind you all that that everyone has the responsibility to report harassment or discrimination in the workplace even if you are not the target. I cannot investigate misconduct if I am not made aware of what may be occurring.”

The release of the report is an about-face for King. Last week, the county manager confirmed that allegations of sexual harassment against Kohn had been substantiated. However, King would not reveal how Kohn was disciplined and said the county would not release the report documenting the investigation’s findings because it is a personnel issue.

Kohn has been out of the office since Aug. 24 and will return Friday, according to an automatic reply from his county email address. According to an email sent from King to public defender employees last week, “Kohn was suspended and will return on September 14.”

Kohn plans to retire in January. The county plans begin to taking applications for his position in September and hire a replacement.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

Kohn Report by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

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