LAS VEGAS, NV (KTNV) — Working under the watch of a now-suspected murderer, employees of the Clark County Public Administrator's office are dealing with that shock.
Some have told us they also bear the burden of guilt over speaking to journalist Jeff German, who lost his life after publishing stories about the beleaguered county office. One employee is sharing her story exclusively with 13 Investigates.
"It was the most divisive, hostile environment I've ever experienced."
Janelle Lea started working in the Public Administrator's office in 2020. And on top of navigating the pandemic, Janelle says dealing with things at work was the hardest part.
"I was at work and had to go to the ER a couple of months ago because my blood pressure was literally 220 over 190," Janelle says. "I almost stroked out."
A stark reality for Janelle and others we've spoken to about their time working under Public Administrator Robert Telles.
Janelle came from the private sector, after decades of working in the entertainment world of the Las Vegas strip. She's a self-described toughy who's dealt with demanding VIP celebrities and union strongmen.
But she says what she experienced in that world paled in comparison to the bullying by Telles, which shook her to the core.
"He was condescending. His voice, his voice, and his face would change," says Janelle.
One of the worst incidents Janelle witnessed took place at the Public Administrator's office in an area they call "The Vault" a secure warehouse where high-value items are stored after someone dies until relatives are located.
Janelle: "There's one individual who started to separate herself from the group just for her own sanity, And I watched her deteriorate in personality. And he said to her, 'One day, you're going to end up like all these people in the vault, dead and alone.' And I heard him."
Darcy Spears: "He said that to his own employee, because she was...."
Janelle: "Because she chose to not be part of the big kids' table and eat lunch with everybody. She chose to take time out for herself during her lunch break."
Telles directed his wrath at her sometimes, too.
"I challenged him on a case, and he just got real close to me and said, 'You think I'm bad now, just wait.'"
But Janelle says Telles wasn't always like that.
"He put on a good show when he was at work, especially in front of us investigators," Janelle says. "He was jazz-hands, happy-go-lucky."
Darcy Spears: "Sounds like, though, you saw both Jekyll and Hyde?"
Janelle: "I did! Yeah, absolutely. Jekyll and Hyde, for sure."
Janelle: "When I confronted him on something--I wouldn't say confronted him--I questioned him, which he immediately took the, you know, the defense. And I saw his eyes turned black. He just went....gone. Stared through me and said, 'It's none of your concern,' and shut the door in my face."
Janelle says the work environment became so toxic, she had to take a few months off in the fall of 2021. But she felt compelled to return in January of this year to support her county co-workers.
In March, with interviews and information from insiders, Review-Journal Investigative Reporter Jeff German published his first article about the Public Administrator's office, and the man who ran it.
"He never did anything at work since that article to any of us that I know of," says Janelle. "He avoided us like the plague."
But that didn't last. In May, as the June primary election neared, Janelle says Telles sent her these disturbing text messages.
Janelle: "He said, 'I'm not going anywhere, Janelle, so stop it.'"
Darcy: "Stop what?"
Janelle: "Exactly what I said, 'What are you talking about?'"
Telles also texted her at that time, "I know about your Twitter account, too."
Janelle replied, "Really. What is it? Prove something Rob." And "I haven't used my Twitter account in 2 years. What are you trying to establish here?"
Apparently, Telles thought Janelle was behind a campaign flyer titled "Rob the Robber", asking for Telles' resignation and citing allegations from German's reporting.
Darcy: "It sounds like there's a paranoia component to his communications."
Janelle: "He's very duplistic, from what I can see now. He has his work environment, and then he had that social media crazy."
She's referring to a comment Telles posted on former Public Administrator, John Cahill's facebook page. He appears to blame his predecessor for German's reporting, writing "John, you are just as liable as these people for creating the environment that entitled these people to surveil me the last two years."
That likely refers in part to the video employees provided to German. As seen on the Review-Journal's website, the video shows Telles and one of his subordinates emerging from the backseat of her car in a mall parking garage. Employees told German that inappropriate relationship furthered the toxic work environment and compromised their ability to serve the public.
"And then to have employees voice their opinion for bullying, for really erratic behavior, for fear based management, for unfairness," Janelle says. "That... we lost Jeff because nobody listened."
Multiple employees from the Public Administrators' office tell 13 Investigates they feel that nobody at the County protected them, despite repeated verbal and written complaints about an unsafe and unstable work environment, which was underscored by Telles' disturbing social media comments.
"He made his own self-admission to being heavily medicated in order to do his job," says Janelle.
This post, also on John Cahill's Facebook page says, "You are responsible for me having to be heavily medicated to keep pushing on and supporting 7 employees in this office who are dedicated to doing the work."
With that, Janelle says he excluded her and three other employees from his list of those he called "dedicated" some of whom remained loyal to Telles even after he was jailed and charged with Jeff German's murder.
"To think that our fellow coworkers, even after a gruesome crime that he's been arrested for, with DNA evidence, that someone would come up to the most abused of the four--well, I can't say most, but the most affected--and say, 'if you had just backed off, your friend would still be alive.'"
Frightened, but undeterred, Janelle pushes through the guilt and draws strength from a phrase she learned to live by after her experience as a 1 October survivor.
"When you see something, say something. Right? Well, I saw something and I said something," Janelle explains. "And they said something because they saw something. We all said something. We all said something. And it fell on deaf ears. And Jeff's gone."
Clark County maintains it did listen and took action. A spokesperson sent the following statement:
“In May, the County took the unprecedented step of hiring former County Corner Michael Murphy to manage the day-to-day operations of the department and have staff report to him instead of to the elected Public Administrator. This arrangement will be in place until a newly elected Public Administrator takes over.”