EDITORIAL: Clark County buries a sexual harassment report

Yolanda King practices a dangerously skewed version of accountability.

The Clark County manager on Wednesday announced that an investigation into harassment allegations against Public Defender Phil Kohn had concluded — yet the taxpayers who paid for it have no right to examine it.

“I honestly fear that, going forward, employees will not want to go through the interview process or participate in investigations,” Ms. King explained in a statement, “if any information documented through those investigations becomes public.”

Let’s take that bizarre logic a step further. By all means, then, we must shroud the judicial system in a veil of secrecy to protect reluctant witnesses. No more public police documents. No more open courtrooms. No more Sixth Amendment right to confront your accuser. Just anonymous judges and juries operating in the shadows to render a Star Chamber version of “justice.”

The probe, Ms. King reports, concluded, “Mr. Kohn engaged in making inappropriate comments of a sexual nature in the workplace and engaged in inappropriate physical behavior toward employees. Given the results of the findings, the appropriate disciplinary actions were taken against Mr. Kohn.”

But how can anyone know? How can taxpayers determine whether the discipline was too lax, too harsh or just right? How can they draw conclusions about whether Mr. Kohn’s behavior and comments were “inappropriate”? They can’t.

To make matters worse, county officials outsourced the investigation to a private firm; Robert Freeman of the Lewis Brisbois law firm in Las Vegas ran the show, the Review-Journal’s Michael Scott Davidson reported. No doubt the bills ran into the thousands of dollars. Yet Ms. King proclaims the same taxpayers forced to bear the costs of compiling the report must be denied access to its conclusions.

Translation: Shut up and trust us.

This is disgraceful — but disturbingly common. Aaron Ford, the Democratic majority leader of the Nevada Senate, now running for attorney general, pulled a similar stunt. In 2017, he filed away under lock and key a taxpayer-funded review of sexual harassment allegations against state Sen. Mark Manendo, a fellow Democrat.

Public confidence in our democratic institutions depends in large part on the belief that they operate transparently and fairly and appreciate they are accountable to taxpayers. Ms. King’s decision is an affront to those basic concepts.

“I wanted to make sure,” Ms. King explained about why investigators interviewed eight or nine current or former employees in Mr. Kohn’s office, “there wasn’t any appearance that management was trying to protect him or cover up the allegations.”

If that was her intent, Ms. King has failed miserably by burying the report, which doesn’t help anyone involved, including any victims. She must reconsider. Redact names, if necessary, but stop the dissembling and release these public documents.

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