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In suit, Vermillion claims Sisolak defamed her after breaking off relationship

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Kathleen Vermillion

Updated Friday, Jan. 20, 2012 | 12:29 p.m.

Former Henderson city councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion is suing Clark County and Commissioner Steve Sisolak, claiming Sisolak defamed her after ending their alleged romantic relationship.

An attorney for Vermillion filed suit Thursday in Clark County District Court, the same day news broke that Vermillion had been accused of financial improprieties at the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, where she is the CEO.

Sisolak, contacted Friday, said he felt bad for the children in Vermillion's charity who might be affected, and bad "that Kathy has placed herself in this position."

"There's no merit to any of these (lawsuit) claims," Sisolak added.

Vermillion, who has denied any wrongdoing involving the community organization, announced in November her plan to resign from the Henderson City Council. The resignation became official early this month.

Thursday’s lawsuit sheds more light on turmoil at the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.

The suit, filed by attorneys at the Las Vegas law firm Martin & Allison Ltd., says Vermillion's schedule was very demanding after she was elected to the city council, so she turned over many of her NPHY duties to Executive Director Arash Ghafoori.

But Ghafoori "had serious performance issues in the fall of 2011," and NPHY’s treasurer resigned "amid allegations there were some irregularities relating to NPHY finances," Vermillion's attorneys claim.

During a board meeting in late December, Vermillion and Ghafoori both agreed to take drug tests and Vermillion tested positive for a synthetic opiate, her lawsuit says.

The suit says Vermillion had recently taken some pain relievers for a migraine headache and that she had obtained a pain reliever from Sisolak’s sister, Susan Sisolak. It’s believed the pain reliever from Sisolak’s sister caused Vermillion's drug test to be positive, her attorneys said.

They further said an NPHY board member improperly disclosed Vermillion’s drug test results to Sisolak and that "Sisolak disseminated Mrs. Vermillion’s results to multiple individuals at the Clark County government offices."

Among other claims in Vermillion's suit:

• "Sisolak and Ms. Vermillion have been involved in an 'on and off' romantic relationship for approximately five years that Sisolak terminated in October." By disclosing her drug test results, Sisolak negligently disseminated private health records and invaded her privacy.

• "Sisolak in his role as Clark County Commissioner made defamatory statements about Mrs. Vermillion to other Clark County commissioners and department heads."

• Sisolak and Clark County, "acting under color of state law," violated Vermillion’s rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Sisolak's response: "I don't know anything about drugs, vacations, trips or anything else that's been mentioned," he said during an interview Friday.

Sisolak later issued a statement: "It is a sad day for Las Vegas when an organization that does good work for kids has its effectiveness undermined and reputation blemished by a complaint such as this one. It is truly regrettable. It is sad that Ms. Vermillion and the organization have placed themselves in this situation."

Clark County also released a statement on the suit, which demands damages that are unspecified but that top $20,000.

"The complaint is frivolous on its face, completely without merit, and is of questionable motivation since it acknowledges that people other than the defendants actually disseminated the information in question before it reached the county," the statement said.

Vermillion is seeking compensatory, consequential, special and punitive damages.

Sisolak in his campaign biography notes he has worked with the NPHY, NPHY’s website lists him as a donor in the $50,000 to $99,999 range and Thursday’s lawsuit notes the NPHY has appeared on Clark County Commission agendas as a grant recipient.

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