RENO, Nev. — Nevada’s attorney general says the Reno City Council did not violate the state’s open meeting law when it met privately with the city attorney about allegations the ex-city manager sexually harassed three women.
A lawyer for the three female city employees had filed an open meeting complaint accusing the council of breaking the law when it met behind closed doors with City Attorney Karl Hall on July 20 to discuss the allegations against Andrew Clinger.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Sarah Bradley said in an opinion Thursday there was no violation because the meeting was a privileged attorney-client conference specifically exempted from the definition of “meeting” under state law.
Earlier this week, the council appointed assistant city manager Bill Thomas to serve as acting city manager.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reported (http://on.rgj.com/2dj7co3 ) the council also voted unanimously Wednesday to increase Thomas’ pay by 16 percent. Thomas had been filling in for Andrew Clinger since Aug. 8, when the city manager placed himself on voluntary leave.
Clinger, who maintains his innocence, signed a separation agreement earlier this month and was awarded a $230,000 severance package.
The women’s lawyer, Bill Peterson, had raised concerns about the way the initial investigation was conducted, arguing the city was trying to keep it from public scrutiny. He accused the council of meeting July 20 to secretly discuss Clinger’s “character, alleged misconduct or professional competence.”
Hall said they specifically did not discuss those topics, which would have been subject to the public meeting law. He said in an affidavit that the purpose of the meeting was to conduct an “attorney-client session to discuss pending litigation and advice (the) council of the potential for litigation” regarding the complaints against Klinger.
Peterson ultimately withdrew the complaint, but the attorney general’s office continued its review, which it closed with the issuance of Thursday’s formal opinion.
“Because the hour-long gathering concerned pending or existing litigation, it is not a ‘meeting,'” Bradley wrote.