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May 29, 2015

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Vermillion may step aside as embattled head of homeless youth organization

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Former Henderson City Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion

Kathleen Vermillion said Tuesday she would likely step aside as the embattled head of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth rather than allow scandal to sink the 12-year-old organization.

She also said her doctor has told her to take medical leave because tests have revealed a “substance or cyst” on her brain, which she said is causing migraine headaches.

Vermillion said she has been in contact with two other organizations in Clark County that deal with homeless youth. A source said those groups are WestCare Foundation and HELP of Southern Nevada. Either organization, sources said, could take over Vermillion’s nonprofit group, which helps provide temporary housing for homeless youth under age 18.

Representatives from WestCare and HELP could not be immediately reached.

Meanwhile, interim executive director Arash Ghafoori, who complained to the state attorney general about Vermillion’s handling of the organization’s finances and who then was placed on paid leave by Vermillion, has been reinstated by the organization’s board of directors. His attorney, Adam Levine, said Ghafoori was expected to return to work today.

Vermillion’s remarks to the Sun followed by a day a pair of he-said she-said news conferences. At the first one, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak alleged that Vermillion was trying to shake him down for $3.9 million to avoid a lengthy court battle. Vermillion had filed suit against him and Clark County last week alleging defamation and invasion of privacy. The suit says Sisolak and county staff shared the results of drug tests done on Vermillion.

On Sunday, Sisolak and his attorney met with Vermillion’s attorney Rob Martin and Mark Fierro, a public relations adviser, who asked for $3.9 million to settle the lawsuit. Sisolak responded by filing charges of criminal extortion against Vermillion, Martin and Fierro. Metro Police are investigating the matter.

Vermillion and Sisolak had dated for five years before they broke up in October.

In reply to Sisolak’s contention, Vermillion’s attorney held a rebuttal news conference and played a video clip of Vermillion’s 15-year-old daughter characterizing Sisolak as “creepy” and saying he took her shopping at Victoria’s Secret a few times. (Sisolak said that was during trips to the mall, and that the teenager purchased age-appropriate clothing under the label “Pink.”)

Sisolak and Vermillion in 2008

Clark County Commission District A candidate Steve Sisolak talks with supporters with his then-girlfriend Kathleen Vermillion during a political mixer at the Pizza Caffe in Henderson Tuesday, October 14, 2008. Launch slideshow »

By Tuesday afternoon, Vermillion said the stress has taken a toll on her health. During the interview she muted the phone for a minute, returned and said she had vomited due to stress.

Vermillion, who recently resigned from the Henderson City Council, said that the day after media coverage of Ghafoori’s complaint to state prosecutors, donors to the homeless organization asked for refunds totaling $27,000.

“And now it’s just mounting and mounting and mounting,” she added. “At the end of the day, nobody won. (My daughter) is hurt. Half the board members have left.”

She insisted that she spent none of her agency’s money improperly. As evidence, she notes that Clark County recently approved the Partnership’s grant application for $214,217.

“But my reputation is completely destroyed,” she also said. “People think I’m stealing from the charity but I’m not.”

But she might have run afoul of federal rules that ban charitable organizations from contributing to political groups, violations of which can lead to the loss of tax-exempt status.

Records show, for instance, that the Partnership gave $1,000 on March 1, 2010, to the campaign to elect Rory Reid as governor. Vermillion said she thought that was to pay for an advertisement on Reid’s campaign website.

Partnership records, which are part of the letter Ghafoori sent to the attorney general, also show $500 was paid to the Nevada Policy Research Institute in September 2010 and $300 was paid to the ACLU of Nevada in September 2011.

Of her future, Vermillion said she has an offer to do similar work for the homeless in San Diego.

“I don’t want to move,” she added, “but I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll be able to stay out of the media if I stay.”

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