Nevada Legislature offers confidential process for sexual misconduct victims | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada Legislature offers confidential process for sexual misconduct victims

Geoff Dornan | gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

The investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by former Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle raised questions among, in particular, women working in various capacities in the Legislature.

Rule 20 of the Joint Standing Rules prohibits sexual harassment including unwelcome advances, inappropriate verbal abuse, unwanted physical conduct of a sexual nature as well as retaliation against someone for refusing advances.

It applies not only to lawmakers but to lobbyists, LCB employees, vendors, contractors, customers and all other visitors to the Legislature.

A number of people said they didn’t know how to file a report and how the process works.

According to Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs, the process isn’t only easy but designed with extensive protections for those who make a report. It was created near the end of the 2017 Legislature after complaints were filed against then-Sen. Mark Manendo of Las Vegas.

He said they can make a complaint to the Speaker of the Assembly, the Senate Majority Leader or to him as director.

Or, if the individual wants anonymity, he or she can use the hotline set up to receive complaints at 833-204-7555 or use the online system that was created after the Manendo case. Both are confidential.

To report on line, click the link “Reporting Sexual Harassment” on the left-hand side of the main legislative webpage, then click on “Proceed to External Reporting Website” followed by “Make a Report.” That takes the person to a website operated by EthicsPoint that’s not connected to the Nevada legislative website.

Once victims fill out the report, they receive a unique “Report Key” and are instructed to enter a password. Names aren’t required unless the person wants to give their name.

Combs said the report is accessible only to certain members of the Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corp., who do a preliminary review to decide whether or not there’s evidence of harassment or misconduct. The “Report Key” and password enable the law firm to contact the person making the report while maintaining confidentiality and anonymity.

Combs said five or six days after filing a report, the person should use the Report Key and password to check back and see if any action has been taken or the reviewers have questions.

If the law firm receives a complaint, the Legislative Counsel is notified unless that person is implicated in the complaint.

He said he too is notified so he and Legislative Counsel can decide how to handle the investigation, still without knowing who filed the report.

The report should include where and when as well as what occurred. It doesn’t have to be from the victim, that it could be filed by a witness.

If appropriate, he said the case may be assigned to a committee of lawmakers or the ethics committee of the appropriate house, or to a specially appointed committee.

That keeps the Speaker and Majority leader outside the investigative process to ensure impartial and fair treatment of the claims and protection of the identity of the individual filing the report.

If the charges are against a legislator, the speaker or majority leader would make the ultimate decision on sanctions against the perpetrator such as losing a committee chairmanship, Combs said.

The body itself can impose a range of punishments by majority vote. But if the punishment is expulsion from the Legislature, that requires a two-thirds vote of the body.

If the complaint involves the speaker or majority leader, Combs would be the person to complain to. Combs said if the complaint is against a lobbyist, he would handle discipline which could mean suspending their registration, effectively putting them out of business.