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Embattled head of county’s juvenile justice services ousted

Updated August 31, 2023 - 4:54 pm

The embattled director of Clark County’s Juvenile Justice Services is no longer with the department.

County spokesperson Jennifer Cooper confirmed that Wednesday was John “Jack” Martin’s last day. Martin was accused earlier this year of nepotism, inappropriate remarks and sham discipline proceedings.

Cooper wrote in an email Thursday that the county could not speak about the circumstances behind the departure. “That is all we can share,” she said.

In a short phone interview, Martin said he was grateful to the county, management and the community. Asked if he had quit, was fired or separated in a mutual agreement, he said only he was “separated.”

Earlier this year, Martin faced lopsided no-confidence votes from the unions that represent youth probation officers and their supervisors.

Kevin Eppinger, president of the Juvenile Justice Probation Officers Association, said the mood among his officers immediately changed Thursday when they received an email from deputy county manager Abigail Frierson announcing the departure.

“The energy level is up and motivation is high,” Eppinger said. “We couldn’t staff fully for our swing shift lately, but tonight detention staff reported that swing shift is fully staffed.”

That means after dinner, which is at 5:30 p.m., kids in the Juvenile Detention Center can hang out, watch TV and play games rather than being confined to their rooms until Friday morning.

“His dismissal has had an immediate effect on people’s willingness to work,” he said. “It’s restored the belief that we’re all a team.”

Harassment, bullying allegations

In public comments to the county’s board of commissioners this spring, union members had accused Martin and his team of intimidation, retaliation, nepotism, wrongful discipline and terminations.

Weeks later, a third-party law firm that specializes in employment and labor law was tapped by the county to investigate the department.

The probe was separate from multiple lawsuits and complaints to state and federal officials for “arbitrary and capricious investigations” against probation officers, according to the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers and the Juvenile Justice Supervisors Association unions.

Eppinger said several of his officers were called in for interviews regarding harassment, bullying and a hostile work environment. But they never heard the results of the third-party investigation, Eppinger said Thursday.

Matthew Richardson, president of the Juvenile Justice Supervisors Association, wrote in a message Thursday night that county management vetted the complaints against Martin and made the right decisions.

“It was also brave of the individuals who came forward and shared their negative experiences with Mr. Martin,” he wrote.

Asked about the complaints leveled against him, Martin only said they came from a “small percentage” of employees.

The unions said the votes of no confidence against Martin were 167 to 8.

“We are emotionally tapped out. We are tired. We are losing officers,” Tamara Partridge, a 15-year veteran of the department, said at the time. “Officers are so emotionally drained.”

The county later said that county management had implemented a process to properly vet the complaints and investigate “as needed.”

For now, Frierson, the deputy county manager will oversee the department on an interim basis while the county decides the process to replace Martin, Cooper said.

Eppinger said the unions are hoping to sit in on the interviews and get a say in the final choice.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on X. Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on X.

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