State sued for $260,000 in unwanted kiss case

What started out as an unwanted kiss wound up costing the state $260,000 in a sexual harassment and retaliation case.

And the money is going to the person who forced that kiss on a co-worker, not to the supposed victim, according to the Nevada Attorney General's Office.

"It's actually more about retaliation than sexual harassment," Assistant Solicitor General Creighton Skau said, because of a litany of problems in handling the case.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Mark Ford complained that after his sergeant, Patricia Kinard, kissed him and he rebuffed her, she retaliated by changing his schedule and assigning him unpleasant duties. She was his supervisor at the time.

Kinard admitted she initiated the kiss and was demoted from sergeant and suspended 30 days.

But Kinard filed suit, saying she was being punished more harshly than male troopers had been for similar sexual violations in the past.

"The agency was faced with 'he said, she said' regarding the kiss," said Skau. "If this was about a kiss, we wouldn't be here."

He said problems in handling the case and "unfortunate timing" combined to make it look more as though the state was retaliating against Kinard, not only for the incident but for her continued fight and lawsuits.

A major example, he said, was the fact that on her new application for sergeant, she was ranked 33 out of 33 because she was scored poorly on the verbal portion of the testing. When she was first made a sergeant, Kinard had done well on the test, and she blamed the difference on retaliation at NHP.

The other piece of unfortunate timing was that the incident came up just a couple months after NHP was hit with a large court judgment in another NHP sexual harassment case involving a woman victim of a male supervisor.

Skau said NHP was in a "Catch-22" situation when it decided to impose tough punishment on Kinard by demoting her.

"The theory was that the agency hadn't acted harshly enough in previous cases," said Skau.

He said while he believes NHP's handling of the situation was defendable, the consensus among attorneys, experts in the field and a couple of focus groups of residents was that it looked bad enough the state could end up paying more than $4 million in a trial.

So attorneys decided to settle.

Kinard was granted reinstatement as a sergeant and $60,000.

The rest of the money, $200,000, goes to her lawyer, Jack Kinney.


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