Published Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 | 3:19 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 | 5:31 p.m.
Less than a week after Kathleen Vermillion's 15-year-old daughter was videotaped calling Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak “creepy,” and a lawsuit alleged that Sisolak had "improper and secretive” intentions toward her, the teenager says the allegations are false, her father said Wednesday.
The statement by Burt Boutin, Vermillion's ex-husband, brought yet another wrinkle to the drama playing out between two high-profile figures in local government — Sisolak, the commissioner, and Vermillion, who resigned as a member of the Henderson City Council only to face accusations that she mishandled finances at the homeless teen charity that she founded 12 years ago.
Vermillion reacted to the latest news in the growing legal melodrama by saying she wished she hadn't allowed her daughter to be videotaped making insinuations that Sisolak had acted improperly toward her.
There were still other developments Wednesday: the revelation that Sisolak secretly recorded a meeting Sunday with Vermillion's lawyer, Rob Martin, and Martin's public relations adviser, Mark Fierro. Sources say that on that video, Martin or Fierro can be heard saying that they would "have a hard time convincing a jury to give (Vermillion) any money."
And when the two ask Sisolak for $3.9 million to make Vermillion's lawsuit go away, it is pointed out that the family of Trevon Cole, who was shot and killed by a Metro police officer in 2010, only received $1.7 million in a settlement.
The source said Fierro responded to that by saying Cole was a "faceless, nameless individual."
In his statement, ex-husband Boutin speculated that his daughter was coaxed to appear in the video as part of a "desperate move" by his ex-wife and her advisers to embarrass Sisolak. "My daughter thought she was helping her mother and did not realize the harm it would cause,” Boutin said.
Boutin said Sisolak, who had a five-year relationship with Vermillion until they broke up in October, "acted as a gentleman to both of my children and to me. I ask that you respect the privacy of my children and me.”
Sisolak applauded Boutin for coming forward and said, “I’m disappointed anyone would put a 15-year-old young lady in this position. My heart goes out to (the teen) and I hope people give them the privacy they ask. I hope Vermillion gets the help she needs.”
He added that Boutin’s statement has been turned over to Metro Police investigators.
After talking to her daughter late Wednesday afternoon, Vermillion said her daughter admitted feeling "pressured" to do the video by Martin and Fierro. Even so, Vermillion added, the teenager says everything she said is authentic and she was not coached to say certain things.
Vermillion said "it was such a huge mistake" to give verbal permission to Fierro or Martin to release her daughter's name and the video to the media. Vermillion said her daughter screamed and cried out of stress after being told Wednesday of her father's remarks, telling her mother "I don't want to be a part of this anymore!"
"If I knew it was going to be like this, I would have never subjected her or myself to any of this," Vermillion said.
Wednesday's developments could undermine much of the lawsuit filed by Kathleen Vermillion against Sisolak and Clark County alleging defamation and invasion of privacy. Vermillion dated Sisolak five years before they broke up in October. She is also the founder of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
To see how it got to this point, you need to go back to Friday, when Vermillion filed a lawsuit alleging Sisolak and Clark County staff shared the results of her private drug test with others. It was in that lawsuit where Vermillion claimed Sisolak had an “improper and secretive” relationship with the teenager.
The suit came one day after media reports that Arash Ghafoori, executive director of the Partnership for Homeless Youth, had asked the Nevada attorney general to investigate the charity’s operations and handling of money. He alleged Vermillion committed fraud and improperly transferred money between two charities to pay her salary.
After Sisolak met with Fierro and Martin on Sunday, he filed a police report alleging criminal extortion by Vermillion, Martin and Fierro.
Sisolak told reporters Monday morning that at the meeting, which he audio-recorded, Martin and Fierro played an edited video of Vermillion’s daughter saying Sisolak took her to Victoria’s Secret, sent her text messages at night and gave her gifts.
Then Fierro and Martin asked for $3.9 million to, as Sisolak put it, “make it all go away.”
Instead, Sisolak filed the criminal extortion police report, and a few hours later Fierro and Martin held a news conference and showed some of the videotape to reporters.
Boutin’s statement Wednesday followed other revelations in the highly personal, highly public dispute. KSNV Channel 3 revealed Tuesday night that Sisolak was not the only person to know about Vermillion’s drug test results. The chairman of her charity’s board sent an email sent to 16 people talking about the results, saying Vermillion had to be given the chance to defend herself.
One point important in the matter is the difference in how Sisolak defines the Sunday meeting versus Fierro and Martin’s definition.
Fierro and Martin have publicly said the meeting was a “settlement conference,” while Sisolak said it was to discuss an upcoming news conference Fierro and Martin had planned. It’s not a crime to ask for money to avoid an expensive legal battle at a settlement conference; if not a settlement conference, extortion allegations, like the one made by Sisolak, might result. (The Sun received emails from Vermillion Friday and Saturday saying a news conference was being planned for following Monday or Tuesday.)
Vermillion was not at the meeting. That’s an important point, because although she was present during the videotaping of her daughter, her absence at the meeting might free her from liability if criminal extortion charges are sought.
In an interview Tuesday, Vermillion told the Sun that she was likely going to step aside from her position as head of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. She said the organization received $27,000 in requests for refunds from donors one day after news broke that state prosecutors had been asked to look into how the Partnership handled its money.
“And now it’s just mounting and mounting and mounting,” she had said. “At the end of the day, nobody won. (My daughter) is hurt. Half the board members have left.”