Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak (Nev.) issued his first executive order on Monday creating a task force to prevent sexual harassment, but the individual he selected mishandled sexual harassment allegations for political gain while leading Nevada Senate Democrats.
Sisolak was sworn into office on Monday and made it his first order of business to combat sexual harassment. The order said Nevada must "examine and address the power inequities, harassment and discrimination reporting failures and flaws in anti-discrimination laws, policies and procedures that have allowed sexual harassment and discrimination to persist," according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
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Sisolak selected Aaron Ford, the new Nevada attorney general, to be the chair of the panel, despite his history of allowing sexual harassment to continue when he led Democrats in the Nevada Senate.
In 2003, then-Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins stripped Assemblyman Mark Manendo of his Assembly chairmanship following sexual harassment complaints. Manendo, however, would go on to win a state Senate seat in 2010.
When Ford became the Senate Democratic leader after the 2014 election, he could have called for an investigation into the sexual harassment claims or expelled him from the caucus, but instead he made Manendo a committee chairman in 2016 and accepted a $5,000 donation from him to the caucus. Ford gave Manendo a verbal rebuke "only after he no longer needed his vote," according to the Review-Journal.
Ford would eventually order an investigation into Manendo in April 2017 after multiple complaints were brought against him.
"The investigator concluded that Senator Manendo violated the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy; had engaged in multiple and repeated instances of inappropriate, offensive, and unacceptable behavior towards female staffers and lobbyists; and had attempted to interfere with the subsequent investigation into his conduct," a statement said.
Following the investigation, Manendo submitted his resignation letter to the then-governor of Nevada, Republican Brian Sandoval.
"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my neighbors and our State for the past 23 years and I am grateful for the dozens of laws I have worked to pass in order to protect the most vulnerable members of our society," his letter read. "As my senate term comes to an end, I feel now is the time to step aside and look for new opportunities to serve others."