By Mark Waite
Former Nye County Emergency Services Director Brent Jones followed up his June demand letter to Nye County with a lawsuit in federal court in November, claiming gender discrimination.
Attorney Robert Spretnak said he filed a suit on only one of the charges that was subject to a statute of limitations. Jones had to file suit for violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 within 90 days of the receipt of a letter mailed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which the EEOC concluded it couldn’t complete its investigation of the particulars set forth in the discrimination charge within six months.
Jones began work for Nye County Jan. 31, 2005 and was terminated May 2, 2012. He charged Nye County with unlawful discrimination, harassment and a hostile working environment.
The suit claims Nye County “unlawfully discriminated against Mr. Jones in the terms and conditions of his employment because of his sex and because of his refusal to accede to the sexual demands of his direct supervisor.”
In the suit filed in federal court, Jones asks for back pay, front pay, lost benefits and compensatory damages for emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment.
The suit adds, “because defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud or malice, express or implied, it should pay Mr. Jones an additional amount for the sake of example and by way of punishment.”
Spretnak asks for a jury trail to determine monetary damages, interest, attorney’s fees and any other relief.
In his complaint filed with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, Jones claims County Manager Pam Webster subjected him to sexual harassment.
“She asked me to go to Mexico with her. She tried to make me go on dates with her in Vegas,” the complaint states. “After I rejected her advances she tried to yell and belittle me at any opportunity.”
Jones claimed he was discharged after he was falsely accused of sending a letter stating Webster was illegally employing her daughter.
“Due to me rejecting her sexual advances and her believing that I was the whistle blower Ms. Webster discharged me,” Jones’ suit claims.
The gender discrimination claim was the only one pursued in the lawsuit at this time due to the time limits, Spretnak said.
Spretnak’s demand letter dated June 5, 2012, said the only reason Jones was given for his termination was as a department head, he was an at-will employee and could be terminated without notice, reason or cause. Spretnak claimed Jones wasn’t an at-will employee according to a 1997 county ordinance once he completed his one year probationary period.
In his demand letter, he said Jones should’ve been given notice of the charges against him, an explanation of the evidence and an opportunity to present his side of the story.
In his demand letter, Spretnak asserted unlawful retail at ion for the exercise of collective bargaining rights, claims that weren’t in this lawsuit. Jones was the representative of the Nye County Management Employees Association, which lost collective bargaining rights after a state law passed in 2011.
Spretnak said Jones successfully advocated on behalf of three department heads in response to attempts by Nye County to terminate them for cause, negotiating voluntary resignations with severance packages.
The demand letter states at the conclusion of one meeting Webster made an offensive remark that caused her daughter to leave the room in disgust.
During his over seven years as EMS director, Jones oversaw the construction of the new EMS building on Siri Lane, the multi-purpose training facility, dealt with a revolt by Amargosa Valley volunteer firefighters and helped with revisions to the animal control ordinance.
But Jones came under increasing criticism by county commissioners in his final days that led him to storm out of one meeting. Last March he was questioned about attempting to get a brand new pickup truck out of a vehicle swap and the purchase of a fire truck in California with only one bidder.
Jones’ demand letter asks for $313,622 in lost wages from May 13, 2012 to May 13, 2015 based on his pay rate of $50.26 per hour; another $150,000 in pain and suffering; $2,000 for attorneys’ fees; the purchase of five years of coverage under the Public Employees Retirement System so he may retire at the appropriate level of compensation; paid health insurance for him and for a dependent until June 29, 2017; and a $100,000 life insurance policy.
If the matter isn’t resolved, Jones asked for copies of any emails pertaining to him sent and/or received six months prior to his firing from Nye County Commissioners Lorinda Wichman, Joni Eastley and Dan Schinhofen, Webster, District Attorney Brian Kunzi, Human Resources Director Danelle Shamrell, EMS Administrative Assistant Melissa Molt, EMS Secretary II Christina Landsberry and EMS Logistics and Abatement Officer Kevin Kleinworth.