Picture credit: Pahrump Valley Times

May 23, 2018

Rob Lauer Political Reporter

In the 2015 Nevada Legislative Session, (R) Nye Assemblyman James Oscarson was the chairman of the powerful Health and Human Services Committee where he commanded staff and resources. And it was as Chairman, that Assemblymen James Oscarson allegedly sexually harassed a committee staffer so badly that she complained to Susan Furlong, the Chief Clerk of the Assembly, according to multiple sources. The woman who was allegedly sexually harassed by Oscarson was moved to a better paying more prestigious position.

360 News Las Vegas has been investigating this incident for months, speaking with multiple sources including staffers in the legislature, legislators, and legal counsel staff. According to current legislative staff we spoke with on condition of anonymity, who knew the woman personally, Assemblyman James Oscarson allegedly sexually harassed her by leering down her dress, gave her a massage then grabbed her breasts and asked her out repeatedly. Allegedly, Oscarson’s harassment got so bad, that the woman reported it to Susan Furlong, the Chief Clerk of the Assembly. According to one of the woman’s coworkers who is a legislative staffer, Furlong moved her to the Sargent at Arms office which is considered a prestigious position that pays considerably more. Furlong never filed a report that we could find. An Attache we spoke with said “Furlong just covered up the entire incident”, allegedly.

The woman at the center of this has no interest in publicity. She makes $17,000 a year working for the local government and by all accounts appears to be a nice, quiet small town girl. The question is, was Furlong required by law or policy to report the allegations?

Many of the legislature Session staff are invited to work there every other year. Many in the small surrounding town rely on the extra money they earn from the job. So there’s a threat hanging over them that if they make waves they won’t be invited back.

Susan Furlong has had her own issues as well. According to Transparent.org, Furlong earned $99,000 a year in salary but paid herself over $69,000 in overtime pay in 2015, the year the Vatican/Priest type shuffle had occurred. Her overtime pay struck a nerve for staff who regularly worked 12 hour days without receiving any overtime compensation.

What may be even more telling is that the position on Oscarson’s committee remained unfilled for the rest of the 2015 session.

This wasn’t the first time misbehaving legislators’ actions were covered up. On July 19, 2017, State Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, resigned after an investigation concluded he had sexually harassed multiple women including staffers and lobbyists over several years. Manendo was first elected to the Nevada Assembly in 1994 where he served until 2010. He won elections for District 21 of the state Senate in 2010 and 2014.

On December 16, 2017, former State Senator Democrat, and now U.S. Congressman Rep. Ruben Kihuen resigned over multiple allegations of sexual harassment while serving in the Nevada State Legislature.

Since these incidents came to light last year, the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau has retained an outside law firm, Van Dermyden Maddux, to investigate any future claims of sexual harassment. 360 spoke with their lead lawyer, Justin Kochan, and asked if Furlong was required to file a sexual harassment report. He refused to answer. Kochan went on to say his law firm must ask permission from the Legislative Counsel Bureau to conduct an investigation into a claim of sexual harassment. But in this case, the staff in Legislative Counsel Bureau may have a direct conflict of interest since they may have knowledge of the incident in question. Staff in Legislative Counsel Bureau have refused to speak with 360 on the record about the alleged incident as well.

Assemblyman James Oscarson denied the entire incident when asked in a phone interview by 360. Susan Furlong refused to take our calls. This is a case of he said without any eyewitnesses which is usually the case in most sexual harassment claims. So 360 News wants to be clear that we are not accusing Oscarson of anything, however, the real question is should there have been a report and investigation to determine his guilt or innocence?

Early on during the 2015 Legislative session, the committee staffer’s name appeared on numerous Minutes of Meetings transcripts and then she abruptly disappeared from the records.