It’s been five months since Clark County launched an investigation into whether Public Defender Phil Kohn mistreated women in his workplace.
County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak says he’s done waiting for answers.
On Friday, Sisolak gave County Manager Yolanda King a letter demanding to know whether an outside law firm had found any instances of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior in the public defender’s office, according to a copy of the document obtained by the Review-Journal.
“This investigation should have come to a close by now, but I have seen no action,” Sisolak wrote. “It is unacceptable to allow any additional time to pass without a decisive response. The next steps should be taken without any more delay and an appropriate version of the report should be released now. Noting but zero tolerance can be permitted.”
The investigation began in March and is taking longer than most probes, according to statements made by county Human Resources Director Sandy Jeantete this year.
Most complaints made to human resources were investigated within three months, Jeantete said.
The county released a statement Friday that gave no indication about what, if anything, had been done to investigate the claims against Kohn. The county has also not released the name of the law firm conducting the investigation.
“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and investigate them in a manner that ensures a fair and thorough review of any claims of inappropriate behavior,” the statement reads. “Sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated. Any investigation revealing inappropriate behavior in the workplace will result in disciplinary action.”
The county announced it would launch an investigation after an anonymous letter sent to county commissioners claimed Kohn made “inappropriate” comments toward his current and former female employees, one of whom told the Review-Journal she had been sexually harassed by Kohn. The letter also alleged Kohn refused to investigate sexual harassment claims alleged against “older, established” male attorneys in his office.
Kohn, who remained in his position throughout the investigation, has maintained his innocence. Kohn said investigators interviewed him in late June, but he had no idea how far along the investigation was.
“I want them to do a thorough background and talk to whoever they believe is necessary,” he said.
Kohn has led the public defender’s office since 2004. In 2010 he was accused of sexual discrimination and harassment via another anonymous letter authored by someone claiming to be a deputy public defender.
That letter landed on the desk of then-District Attorney David Roger, who said he sent a memo concerning the accusations to county commissioners and then-County Manager Virginia Valentine.
Kohn and Valentine have both said they do not remember the 2010 letter or memo. It remains unclear if an investigation was ever conducted into those accusations.
In April, county commissioners voted to update their workplace policies against sexual harassment for the first time since April 2015. The changes included a streamlined complaint process and anti-harassment training for all employees.
Sisolak said Friday that county employees need to see proof that the new policies are meaningful.
“People need to feel safe coming to us to report a problem and know that we’ll take action,” he said.
Contact Michael Scott Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.