Judge rules discrimination lawsuit against Storey County sheriff can continue
A federal District Court judge has issued a ruling that will allow portions of a sexual discrimination lawsuit against embattled Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro to proceed to trial.
An order issued by Nevada District Court Judge Robert Jones on Monday dismissed a sexual harassment claim filed against Antinoro by a former deputy, Melanie Keener, but allows her claims related to emotional duress and civil rights violations to proceed. No trial date has been set, but it is likely to come sometime this year.
“While Ms. Keener is disappointed that her sexual harassment claims, which are statutory in nature, will not be heard, she is thrilled that Judge Jones has ruled in her favor and that the majority of the claim will go forward to trial,” Keener’s attorney Gus Flangas said in a statement.
Keener, a 15-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, filed a lawsuit against Antinoro in July 2017 alleging sexual harassment and employment discrimination after she accused him of sending her sexually suggestive text messages during a 2015 law enforcement conference in Ely and then sharing explicit details of his sex life during a car ride back the next day.
Keener alleged in the suit that she was transferred from her position in the sheriff’s department after filing a sexual harassment complaint against Antinoro and was later transferred to a position at the county’s museum. Later depositions with Storey County government employees indicated that Antinoro had been the subject of around 10 complaints, several related to sexual harassment.
In his order, Jones wrote that Keener had failed to exhaust the administrative remedies required before bringing charges related to sexual harassment, but denied Antinoro and the county’s request to dismiss the other claims of negligence and emotional duress.
“In the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, a jury could find that the Plaintiff has adequately shown the necessary elements for this cause of action,” he wrote.
Through her attorney, Keener filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in September 2018. She is seeking monetary compensation and attorney’s fees in the current lawsuit. An investigation by former Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office did not find Antinoro had committed any “criminal offenses” that fell within the statute of limitations.
Antinoro, who beat back a recall effort in 2017, was elected to another four-year term in the 2018 midterm elections.