- Associated Press - Saturday, September 16, 2017

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Reno’s city attorney hired a private investigator to go undercover to strip clubs to look for illicit behavior, and now officials are wondering what the investigator found and what they should do about it.

Other city officials were surprised when a City Council member disclosed an investigation report’s existence during a meeting Wednesday night, the Reno Gazette-Journal (https://goo.gl/tvQvz6 ) reported Saturday.

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus said she learned of the report during a staff briefing on proposed ordinance changes to crack down on downtown strip clubs. The proposed changes would require clubs to remove digital signs, stop serving alcohol and eventually relocate to industrial areas.

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Brekhus said a representative of the investigator’s firm described victimizations of patrons and dancers and behavior that would rise to a criminal level. She said city staffers weren’t certain what they were going to do with the report.

“I was just kind of dumbfounded,” Brekhus said.

Brekhus says the report could bolster the city’s position in expected lawsuits challenging the ordinance if there’s evidence of negative consequences from strip clubs.

Deputy City Attorney Chandeni Sendall declined to describe the investigator’s findings, telling Brekhus that it was “commissioned under an attorney-client privilege basis” based on anticipated litigation.

Mayor Hillary Schieve told the Review-Journal she questioned whether it was appropriate to send investigators into private businesses. She also questioned the reliability of the report.

“Do you have video? Do you have proof? Is that hearsay? I don’t know,” Schieve said.

Schieve wants the report made public and said Brekhus did the right thing in bringing it up during the meeting.

City Attorney Karl Hall told the Review-Journal the investigation was part of the city’s efforts to defend itself against litigation.

“We obviously everything we did was to defend the city from any potential litigation,” he said.

Several council members told the newspaper they believed the report was part of a legal briefing on potential lawsuits, and not meant as information upon which to base a decision on the proposed ordinances.

“They told me this was privileged information, so I’m really not at liberty to get into what they found,” Councilwoman Naomi Duerr said. “It was a legal briefing, like any legal briefing.”

Duerr described the investigation as part of Hall’s legal research into creating the ordinance, as well as preparation for potential litigation.

A lawyer for a club suing the city over a possible business license revocation following six shooting incidents said sending a private investigator into clubs is un-American.

“The public has a right to know, especially when council says they are making up their minds based on this secret report,” attorney Mark Thierman said.”

Assistant Police Chief Jason Soto said he first learned of the private investigation when Brekhus disclosed it during the council meeting.

Soto said he would contact Hall to learn whether there is anything that police need to investigate.

“The whole thing was bizarre,” Soto said.

The Review-Journal reported it has submitted a public records request for the report and for invoices for payments to the investigator.

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