RENO - A lawsuit filed in Reno Federal Court charges the District Attorney’s Office and DA Dick Gammick with tolerating a hostile work environment for women. Also, the lawsuit alleges, when two women employees complained, the DA's office retaliated by investigating one of them.
On one level the suit is an all too typical sexual harassment action, one of a number brought over the years by Reno attorney Mark Mausert. It charges women who work in the DA's subpoena service office endure a hostile environment, one in which a male employee, Jay Mannlein, routinely refers to women as bitches and joked about starting a women hater's club. According to the suit, none of this was unknown to District Attorney Dick Gammick himself, who, it says, had personal knowledge of the problem and even laughed at it.
The suit says also Mannlein who had dated another woman in the office said "he would chop the bitch up and bury her by the side of the road."
According to the suit, that comment actually led to disciplinary action, not against Mannlein, but one of the women, Anje Earl, who reported it.
Given Mannlein's alleged record of making hostile statements and attempting to intimidate other employees in the office, Mausert says, she wasn't quite sure what to do. Mr. Gammick in his wisdom decided to discipline my client for having waited three days to report potential work place violence."
Earl and fellow worker Amy Peterson were reportedly transferred to other floors in the DA's office, denying them access to a computer program that allows them to research people they are assigned to serve with subpoenas. Without that access, Mausert says, they were at risk, unable to identify potentially dangerous assignments and arrange protection.
Mausert says he attempted to settle the matter with the District Attorney's office, but those offers were rebuffed. Instead he says, the DA's office launched a retaliatory investigation of his clients, an investigation he says led three of the DA's employees, Cynthia Wyett, Marc Covington and Lidia Osmetti, to conspire to manufacture evidence against Earl.
He says they planted obscene material on her desk, and gave her a new cell phone with sexually oriented text messages already on it. Suspecting she was being set up, Earl returned the phone and according to the lawsuit, Covington erased the messages.
The allegation of manufacturing or planting evidence, Mausert says, may prove more serious than the sexual harassment charges.
"It's extremely serious. It calls into question the integrity of that office."
Gammick declined comment on the suit today, saying he was prevented from discussing it because it involved a personnel matter.
The lawsuit names the county and the 3 employees as defendants. Because of the obvious conflict, District Attorney's office will have to hire outside counsel to fight the lawsuit