News - December 4, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler said on Nevada Newsmakers Monday that she is reconsidering an earlier statement that she will not run for re-election when her term is completed.

Berkbigler said last year on Nevada Newsmakers that she would not run again when her second term expires in 2020. Yet she is reconsidering her stance after her husband, Jim, passed away in August. He was 83.

"I'm thinking I might run again," Berkbigler said Monday. "I had really not intended to run again because my husband was elderly and his health wasn't great and we had some things we wanted to do. But now that he has passed, you know, I like what I'm doing and have really enjoyed this, being involved. And I don't know what I would do in the next four years after my term is up. So I am very seriously considering it and I am getting a lot of support from the community to do that."

Berkbigler said she wants to hear from her constituents before a final decision.

"I'd love to hear from my constituents on what they think, if it would be a good thing or not," she said.

Commissioner Berkbigler, 66, is a retired communications professional and lobbyist. She said she only wanted to serve two terms when she first ran for the commission. She was first elected in 2012 and won re-election in 2016.

In December of 2016, Berkbigler said on Nevada Newsmakers that she wanted to reorganize the area's dispatch system before she retired at the end of her current term.

"We need a dispatch system that unifies all under one so it is a regional dispatch system," Berkbigler said then. "Currently Reno has some dispatch, Washoe has some dispatch and of course there is the center in Sparks, the center we just have to keep."

Emergency dispatchers coordinate police, fire and other emergency calls, including 911.

Sexual harassment report should be made public

Berkbigler, who spent years as a lobbyist at the Nevada Legislature, said legislative leadership should release a taxpayer-funded report on the sexual harassment allegations against former state Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas.

During the 2017 session, allegations surfaced regarding Manendo's alleged sexual harassment charges and Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, hired an outside law firm to investigate.

The investigation uncovered more than a dozen charges against Manendo during the 2017 Legislature, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Manendo was stripped of his committee chairmanship and Ford was critical of his fellow Democrat in a speech on the state Senate floor. Manendo later resigned.

Yet Ford refused to release details of the taxpayer-funded report and his actions were backed up by the Legislative Counsel Bureau, the legal arm of the Legislature. However, Berkbigler said the public paid for the investigation and has a right to know what is in it.

"Should the state release it? Absolutely," Berkbigler said. "I am a firm believer in releasing the information to the public. If Manendo really did that (sexually harass women at the Legislature) and they fold that in their investigation, why shouldn't the public know?"

Some have suggested that Ford, now running for attorney general, is protecting a member of his own party by keeping the report secret. Yet Berkbigler said Ford should be commended for investigating the issue.

Complaints against Manendo date back to the 2003 session, long before Ford became a member of the Legislature.

"No I don't believe that (Ford is protecting Manendo) because I think Sen. Ford was the reason the investigation started in the first place," she said.

"This is not about politics. This is about people," Berkbigler said.