At first, Rita Reid thought the text was just another in a stream of angry messages from her boss.
But after investigative reporter Jeff German was stabbed to death five days later, she began to wonder if they were subtle threats. Her boss, Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles, was later charged with German’s murder.
In a long text on Aug. 28, Telles told Reid, his top supervisor, that she ignored the truth.
“You’ve made a deal with the devil.”
“You have ruined my life’s path and damaged the office.”
“You will have to live with everything that has been done here.”
Reid had talked to German for a series of Review-Journal stories that started in May and detailed allegations by co-workers of Telles’ bullying and retaliation amid turmoil in the office.
“The statement at the end, in hindsight, is very poignant,” Reid told the newspaper in a recent video interview. “It could have been us, it could have been me. There was a lot of anger.”
Telles had been heated for months and became particularly so in early August after German had filed a new round of records requests to the county, Reid said.
Telles, a 45-year-old Democrat, also lost the June primary after German’s stories.
On Aug. 2, he texted Reid and accused her of “trying to manufacture scandals for the paper.”
But at the time, Reid thought the text message just fit the pattern of intimidation she and others said they faced from Telles over the years and that was reported extensively by German.
Reid, who bested Telles in the primary, said she felt compelled to join the race to improve the working situation in the office, which handles the estates of dead people. She had worked for decades at the county and 15 years in that office.
After Telles took office in 2019, it quickly became a place she and other employees dreaded coming to.
One of the first things Telles did was abruptly walk into Reid’s office and aggressively slam both hands on her desk, Reid said.
“I’m ripping off the bandage,” she remembered him saying before walking away. “No one reports to you anymore. They all report to me.”
In the May story, current and former employees said Telles had been such a bad boss that they suffered headaches and cried about their treatment. They said he had given some workers unnecessary assignments and set unrealistic performance goals. They alleged he played favorites and had an “inappropriate relationship” with an employee that bled into office culture.
Estate coordinator Aleisha Goodwin said she watched Telles become enraged, so much so a vein stuck out on his forehead and he’d turn beet red.
During one argument, he told another employee that she was going to die alone one day, Reid recounted.
Before she walked into work each day, Reid said a prayer.
“Lord, give me strength,” she would say. “I’m here for a reason. I feel I’m making a difference.”
The workers said they felt they had no choice but to reach out to German to tell their story. He continued to ask questions and seek more sources.
“He just was ferocious,” Reid remembered of German. “We felt so hopeful, even though he promised no story.”
Since Telles was arrested, the workers said they have feelings of guilt and grief over what happened to German. They consider him a hero. But there is still work to be done and families to help.
“We just remind each other that because of Jeff, we’re here and we’re able to do it,” Reid said. “He ultimately gave his life so we can have a better government office.”