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May 27, 2015

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Employee complaint over prison director’s comments sparks investigation

Howard Skolnik

Howard Skolnik

CARSON CITY — A complaint has been filed with at least two agencies that Howard Skolnik, director of the state Department of Corrections, threatened to use a shotgun to kill about 20 employees in a meeting in February at the High Desert State Prison.

Skolnik confirmed that the complaint has been lodged with the public integrity unit in the state Attorney General’s Office and the Inspector General’s Office.

Edie Cartwright, public information officer for the Attorney General’s Office, said Metro Police also received a separate complaint. She said the state agency and the department are talking, and Metro is investigating.

Skolnik said he can’t comment because the investigation is ongoing. But a source close to the director said the allegation is “not exactly” what happened.

The complaint was brought by Brenda DeForest, an administrative assistant in the prison medical unit. She could not be reached for comment.

But in her complaint she says Skolnik opened the meeting last month with the medical staff with the statement: “Certain names keep coming to my attention. If I hear your name again, I will take a shotgun and shoot all of you or I will take a sniper gun and take you out one at a time.”

She quoted him as saying he had the name of every employee.

Skolnik says he doesn’t even own shotgun or rifle.

DeForest says Skolnik has “created a hostile work environment and I am now fearful of him and what he may do.” She said Skolnik is unstable and needs to be removed from office.

The complaint was filed a month ago and there has not been any disciplinary or criminal action taken against the director. The complaint was also signed by a handful of other prison employees.

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