In a document obtained by the Independent-News, regrading an April 18 formal complaint to Mineral County District Attorney Sean Rowe from Undersheriff Bill Ferguson shows that after an investigation by Nevada Public Agency Insurance Pool, commissioner Christine Hoferer had harassed the second in command of the county law enforcement agency.
The investigation involved witnesses and materials where the investigator determined, “Hoferer’s comments about the complainant in this case, Undersheriff Bill Ferguson, may violate the Mineral County Personnel Policy 2.2 Unlawful Harassment. She has continually made derogatory remarks about Ferguson which is prohibited by section 2.2.2(1).”
Ryman agreed with the report from the investigator and recommended that “appropriate action be taken in accordance with Section 2.3.5 of the Mineral County Personnel Policies.”
“If it is determined that discrimination and/or unlawful harassment has occurred, Mineral County will take remedial action against the perpetrator commensurate with the severity of the offense. Such remedial action may include, but is not limited to, a verbal and/or written reprimand, counseling, transfer, suspension without pay, and/or termination. Mineral County will also initiate action to deter any future discrimination or harassment from occurring.”
Hoferer was given verbal counseling, “the lowest-level remedial action” as listed in the policy handbook. The attorney also met with the board of county commissioners, in whole, to discuss these matters. This closed session was accidentally given to individuals in the county and reported by the Independent-News in their Sept. 26 edition.
In this meeting, Ryman stated, “Quite frankly there is not a lot of options we have in policing the commissioners. You are not employees under the Mineral County Personnel Policies and so it’s not like employment action can be taken. But regardless of what comes out of that, the fact that he [Undersheriff Ferguson] made the complaint is protective activity so you need to be aware.”
In the document, Ryman touched on the issue of retaliation per the personnel policy, “Retaliation is adverse treatment which occurs because of opposition to unlawful workplace harassment. Mineral County will not tolerate any retaliation by management or by any other employee against an employee who exercises his/her rights under this policy. Any employee who believes s/he has been retaliated or discriminated against in any manner whatsoever as a result of having filed a complaint, assisted another employee in filing a complaint, or participated in an investigative process should immediately notify the EEO Officer or the alternate. Mineral County will promptly investigate and deal appropriately with any allegation of retaliation.”
In the original complaint filed with Rowe, Ferguson stated, “Commissioner Hoferer has me in fear of my job. Commissioner Hoferer has the ability to take funding away from my position. Commissioner Hoferer also has made it clear that she [h]as a biased opinion of the department I work for and should in no way be allowed to make decisions that directly affect our day to day operations.”
During the Oct. 3 Mineral County Board of County Commissioner meetings, Sheriff Randy Adams and Hoferer had a frank discussion regarding a pay raise for Ferguson, who, after the deputies were granted a pay raise, had a salary quite close to that of those he supervises. The request was for an $8,320 a year raise. Hoferer explained that the raise for Ferguson would be more than the base salary for the sheriff position. She stated that she cannot go with the request because it is higher than that of the sheriff. She went on to explain that the undersheriff also received $15,000 last year by working the Joining Forces grant.
During that meeting, Commissioner Garth Price explained that a pay raise between $4,000-$5,000 would be acceptable to him.
Hoferer would tell her commissioners that she felt that the board had gone above and beyond with the sign-on bonuses for new deputy hires.
The sheriff would tell the board, “The war on drugs in Mineral County has been hammered down as a direct result of him [Undersheriff Bill Ferguson].
A motion was made during that meeting to raise Ferguson’s salary to $75,560. Both Price and Commissioner Chris Hegg voted yea. Hoferer voted not.
It is unknown at this time if Ferguson will continue with his lawsuit against Mineral County, though the commissioner agenda for Nov. 6 does reflect an item for the board to go into closed session. The item is written as to potential or threatened litigation against Mineral County.