Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung has joined Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve’s lawsuit over a private investigator’s secret GPS device tracking her movements.
“I was appalled to learn that my private vehicles had been tracked for approximately seven months using the same tracking device that was ultimately found on Mayor Schieve’s vehicle,” Hartung said in a statement sent to the RGJ.
“My movements were tracked and monitored, but I am especially outraged because my family vehicles are driven by my wife and daughter and their locations were also compromised.”
Hartung was added to Schieve’s complaint in a court filing submitted Thursday evening against David McNeely, his private investigation outfit 5 Alpha Industries and unnamed parties paying for McNeely’s services.
“A website now exists that shows the public a map of hundreds of locations visited by Hartung over a seven-month period,” it says.
“Schieve and Hartung, as long-time public servants, were acutely aware of the rise in violent attacks on elected officials across the country. Consequently, the discovery that they were being tracked caused them severe distress and anxiety.”
“Defendants’ conduct is especially unacceptable as Hartung’s vehicles were frequently used by his wife and daughter,” the court filing says. “Thus, Defendants’ conduct not only invaded Hartung’s individual privacy, but also exposed his entire family to harm and unwarranted monitoring and surveillance.”
The filing also says Schieve was at increased risk because of the tracking device on her vehicle – found by accident by her mechanic – because “women officials were targeted 3.4 times more than men,” according to an analysis by the Anti-Defamation League and Princeton University involving a data collection initiative that tracks threats and harassment of local elected officials.
“I have joined Mayor Schieve’s lawsuit that seeks to uncover the identity of the individual who hired the private investigator and hold them both responsible,” Hartung said.
“This type of conduct should not be tolerated in Nevada and I hope that the full force of the law is brought to stop this kind of unwarranted stalking and harassment of public officials and their families.”
Debate over Nevada law
McNeely’s attorney – Ryan Gormley of Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial, based in Las Vegas – submitted an opposition filing Feb. 16 saying that based on Nevada law, he should not be compelled to reveal who hired him to spy on Schieve and other public officials.
“The identity of the client(s) who hired Defendants to investigate Plaintiff is confidential and protected information,” the filing said.
In a second filing Thursday by Schieve and Hartung’s attorney – Adam Hosmer-Henner of McDonald Carano law firm – a reply was made to this claim.
“There is a fair amount of hypocrisy in Defendants’ current efforts to protect the privacy and identity of their client when contrasted with their lack of concern for Plaintiffs’ privacy, which was obliterated when Defendants tortiously surveilled them using sophisticated GPS devices,” the filing says.
Although Nevada is not one of the six states with a specific criminal statute about electronic tracking, unauthorized use of a device on a vehicle belonging to another has been prohibited for years, it says.
“While Defendants attempt to frame the use of such devices as a routine practice by private investigators, Plaintiffs anticipate that discovery will show that other private investigators turned down the exact same request to which Defendants acquiesced,” the filing says.
It concludes, “This court should compel McNeely and 5 Alpha Industries, LLC to produce documents sufficient to identify the individual(s) or entity/entities who hired them to surveil Schieve and Hartung.”
In an email to the RGJ, Gormley said, “Given that the matter is currently in litigation, Mr. McNeely has no comment.” – RENO GAZETTE JOURNAL