LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A federal lawsuit rips the cover off a nasty political battle within the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, alleging a pattern of retaliation against supervisors who support Sheriff Sharon Wehrly’s election opponent.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, outlines complaints by four supervisors who went through internal investigations, reassignments and demotions after their support for Joe McGill became known to Wehrly, who is running for a third term as Nye County sheriff.

Adam Tippetts, a lieutenant; Cory Fowles, a sergeant; Michael Cleveland, a sergeant; and Allen Lynn, a lieutenant who was demoted to deputy, are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Defendants in the lawsuit are Sheriff Wehrly, Nye County and an unstated number of individuals that will be added as the lawsuit proceeds.

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Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly. (File photo)

The lawsuit was filed about a month after a dispute over a “Pahrump Politics” Facebook page spilled over into the public when the sheriff’s office asked the Nye County District Attorney Chris Arabia to prosecute Tippetts and Fowles. Arabia not only declined but criticized the sheriff’s office for the time spent on the case, citing a nine-page investigation summary — compared to the one or two-page reports he routinely sees on sexual assault cases.

Now, a 29-page federal lawsuit alleges Wehrly and others denied the supervisors’ constitutional rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech. In total, 10 claims in the lawsuit allege activities ranging from retaliation and conspiracy to emotional distress and defamation.

When reached for comment on Friday, Sheriff Wehrly said, “This lawsuit is riddled with baseless allegations by disgruntled employees. Because it involves personnel matters and pending litigation there is not much we can comment.”

Nye County is the third-largest county in the U.S., a sprawling 18,158 square miles. Wehrly works out of the Nye County Sheriff’s Office in Pahrump, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas. About 39,000 of the county’s 53,000 residents live in Pahrump.

The dispute over the “Pahrump Politics” page is included in the lawsuit, which details allegations involving each of the supervisors:

Adam Tippetts: The lawsuit describes a flurry of internal investigations directed at Tippetts in early 2022 after he criticized Wehrly. Some of the investigations were procedural, and the lawsuit claims others in similar situations weren’t subject to the same treatment. He was reassigned after a poor performance review. “Tippetts was forced to begin using sick leave at the recommendation of his doctor to avoid the hostile work environment permitted by Wehrly and the county. He has incurred a significant financial loss in using this sick leave,” the lawsuit states. More internal investigations followed, and he was threatened with a layoff after Tippetts and Fowles formed a political action committee (PAC) to support McGill in September. Tippetts was given a choice between being laid off and taking a lieutenant’s job that would require him to relocate — a job that was occupied by Wehrly’s son, George Wehrly. When Tippetts agreed to relocate, the layoff was rescinded.

Cory Fowles: Fowles was notified of an internal investigation into schedule adjustments in April 2022 — less than a month after he publicly supported McGill’s campaign. Similar practices over the previous two years hadn’t resulted in problems, according to the lawsuit. Fowles formally advised the county that he was being subjected to retaliation and a hostile work environment in paperwork at the end of August. After Fowles and Tippetts created the PAC to support McGill, Fowles was notified of another internal investigation into a previous use-of-force incident that had already been cleared. The supervisor who reviewed that case had told Fowles that Wehrly “just wants to squeeze [his] head.” Near the end of October, Fowles was written up for “wrinkled pants.”

Michael Cleveland: A sergeant at the jail, Cleveland was subjected to retaliation after Wehrly learned he was supporting McGill, according to the lawsuit. Unfair treatment that followed a need for restricted duty after an injury led to additional problems in assignments.

Allen Lynn: Described in the lawsuit as one of the department’s most respected leaders, Lynn’s support of McGill came after speculation that Lynn himself might oppose Wehrly in the election. After Facebook comments supporting McGill, Lynn and others — including Tippetts — were told by Capt. David Boruchowitz “they should not expect leniency from Wehrly when they were supporting another candidate.” At the end of May, Lynn learned that Wehrly was planning to fire him or make him take a demotion, according to the lawsuit. A series of suspensions — 10 hours, then 20 hours, and then a third for 30 hours — followed internal investigations from January through the end of May. As pressure built, Lynn was facing termination in a situation that he blames on Boruchowitz, who was advising him in Boruchowitz’s capacity as the president of the supervisors’ union. The lawsuit says Nevada law specifically forbids that because Boruchowitz is Lynn’s direct supervisor. More internal investigations followed on procedural issues, which the lawsuit describes as minor — particularly in light of Lynn’s workload at the time. Lynn was eventually demoted, and George Wehrly was named acting lieutenant in Lynn’s place. One of the complaints that led to Lynn’s demotion involved George Wehrly. Lynn had failed to discipline Wehrly for an unspecified problem. “It defies logic that Lynn would be demoted for not disciplining George Wehrly’s mistakes but George Wehrly would get promoted despite those mistakes,” the lawsuit states.

Wehrly provided a document to 8 News Now that showed a number of problems regarding Lynn’s performance before dates cited in the lawsuit specifying Lynn’s support of McGill. But the majority of incidents over the past two years came in the past 12 months — 16 of the 23 incidents. Many of those 16 incidents are detailed as part of the retaliation alleged in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks general and special damages as well as attorney’s fees. The defendants are represented by Brent D. Huntley Esq. of the Las Vegas law firm Huntley Law.