RENO, Nev. — Nevada’s Legislature has provided some, but not all of the information The Associated Press has requested since December regarding sexual misconduct complaints lodged against state lawmakers since 2008.
Nevada has had only one complaint made against a legislator over the past decade — former state Sen. Mark Manendo, who resigned last July. Last year, the Legislature amended its rules prohibiting sexual harassment to apply to lobbyists as well as lawmakers and their staffs. A specific policy necessary to implement those rules is still in the works. The full Legislature doesn’t meet again until February 2019.
Here’s a look at the kinds of information the Legislature says it is required to make public and the kinds of information it says it is allowed to keep confidential:
WHAT’S THE CURRENT POLICY?
Under the Legislature’s rules, anyone who participates in the legislative process and believes that he or she has been subjected to workplace sexual harassment may file a written complaint with the speaker of the Assembly, the majority leader of the Senate or the Legislature’s legal branch — the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
The rules require any legislative officer who receives a complaint to initiate a “discreet and impartial” investigation. Therefore, the bureau said the Legislature is required to “restrict the disclosure of materials relating to legislative investigations or communications concerning claims alleging workplace sexual harassment in the legislative process.”
WHAT HAS NEVADA’S LEGISLATURE DISCLOSED?
General information about the number of complaints, who was named, and any resulting payments or settlements. Manendo, a Las Vegas Democrat who served in the Legislature for 23 years, resigned in July following complaints that he violated the state’s anti-harassment policy and behaved inappropriately toward female staffers and lobbyists. According to the LCB, there is no record of any other lawmaker who was disciplined, expelled or resigned following such complaints over the past decade. It also said there have been no payments to accusers or settlements that were kept confidential.
WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR NON-DISCLOSURE?
The bureau told The Associated Press that the state’s public records law does not apply. It denied AP’s request for investigative materials pertaining to Manendo “because it asks for the disclosure of materials which are confidential, privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure.”
As a public employer, the Legislature “has a legal duty to protect the confidentiality of any legislative investigations or communications concerning claims alleging workplace sexual harassment,” the bureau said. Such information can be released only under certain specific circumstances “when a substantial government interest outweighs the right to privacy.” Disclosure of the materials also would “intrude upon, interfere with or pry into the legislative process” and “chill legislative speech and debate.”
In the case of Manendo, an agreement the LCB signed with a private law firm to impartially investigate the allegations dictates that the firm’s “communications, work product and investigation materials are protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege, unless waived by the client.”
Last year, lawmakers amended their rules to subject lobbyists to the same sexual misconduct prohibitions that apply to legislators and their staffs. They also adopted a resolution directing the LCB to establish a formal procedure for the first time to field anonymous complaints. It must provide enough details of alleged incidents as well as the names of the people involved and of any witnesses “to allow an appropriate inquiry to occur.”
The bureau also has been charged with developing a training program for all its employees. The policy also would apply to vendors, contractors and even visitors to bureau offices. New employees would be required to take the training within 30 days of hiring and all employees re-trained at least once every two years.
WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR?
In addition to unwanted sexual advances, invitations or comments, the Legislature’s rules list such things as photography, cartoons, drawings or gestures. It says unwanted touching, blocking normal movement or interfering with the work directed at a person because of his or her sex is prohibited. So are threats and demands to submit to sexual requests to keep a person’s job or avoid some other loss, as well as offers of employment benefits in return for sexual favors.
The bureau’s current proposal says behavior deemed inappropriate includes supervisors who imply an employee can earn a promotion or salary increase by providing a form of sexual favor or by dating the supervisor, or supervisors who downgrade an employee’s performance rating because the employee turned down the supervisor’s request for a sexual favor or date. Other examples include unwelcome hugs, kisses or massages, the use of sexually-oriented profanity and making jokes about, or telling of sexually offensive or degrading stories.