Former DETR head opens up about the threats she received during hearing on anti-doxxing bill

Heather Korbulic helmed the state’s Department Employment, Training and Rehabilitation during some of the pandemic’s darkest days last spring.

Thousands of Nevadans, who were thrust essentially overnight onto the state’s overwhelmed unemployment system as Nevada shuttered its economy in the early days of the pandemic, called Korbulic directly, desperate for relief as they struggled to navigate the claims system. Those Nevadans, she said, shared “equally compelling stories of desperation and fear.”

A small percentage, however, targeted their frustrations directly at Korbulic, and an even smaller percentage of those decided to “harass or threaten” her “with, at the very least, intent to scare” her, Korbulic told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday during a hearing on AB296, a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas) that would create civil penalties for people who post people’s personal identifying or sensitive information online with the intent that that information be used for an unlawful purpose, otherwise known as doxxing. 

It was the first time Korbulic — who left DETR in June — has spoken publicly about the personal toll of the threats she received.

“I'm here today doing something I didn't want to do because I really believe in what Assemblywoman Nguyen is putting forward in Assembly Bill 296,” Korbulic said. “No one under any circumstance should be made to feel the way that my family and I felt when people were using my personally identifiable information to threaten and harass me.”

The bill would hold people liable for sharing such information if it causes death, bodily injury, stalking or mental anguish of the person or a close relation of the person whose information was shared, or would cause a “reasonable person” to feel mental anguish or fear any those consequences.

After the first legitimate threat to Korbulic’s safety, a law enforcement officer spent the night parked in front of her house while her husband and children were out of town. When neighbors asked her what was happening, she told them about the threat and asked them to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.

“I went inside and I called my husband and I sobbed and I told him I was done because I couldn’t live like this,” Korbulic testified through tears. “He told me that I was stronger than the people who were threatening me and that he would cut short his trip and come home and install a security system.”

When her family came home, the kids were banned from playing in the front yard unsupervised because Korbulic was afraid that someone would kidnap them. The fear, she said, confused her children, who were angry with her over the new rule.

A few weeks later, in the middle of a meeting with lawmakers, someone posted Korbulic’s personal cell phone number on Facebook. She said that within a matter of minutes, she had more than 100 calls, and her voicemail box filled up with “hateful messages.” The calls were coming in so quickly she couldn’t even get through to Verizon to change her number.

“I sat down and I wept at my desk and I decided that I could no longer tolerate putting my family in this position and that I could not and would not live in fear for simply trying to do my job,” Korbulic said.

In June, Korbulic stepped down from the position, over what was described at the time generally as “threats to her personal safety” and returned to her previous job as executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. She is currently serving as a policy advisor to Gov. Steve Sisolak.

During the Monday hearing, there was some discussion over a section of the bill exempting the sharing of information “which depicts a law enforcement officer acting under the color of law or a public officer acting in an official capacity” from punishment. Sen. Keith Pickard (R-Henderson) voiced a concern that the language would mean the people who threatened Korbulic would not be subject to penalties under the bill, and that the legislation could even invite people to dox police officers.

Lobbyists for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association testified against the bill for that very reason, arguing that it unnecessarily exempts officers from protection. (Metro lobbyist Chuck Callaway also suggested that criminal penalties for doxxing, which were included in an earlier draft of the bill but were amended out, be left in.)

Bill proponents and legislative counsel, however, clarified that the bill would apply to a public official or police officer who is at home, after hours and being harassed. Legal counsel added that existing law currently prohibits the sharing of law enforcement officers’ home addresses or personal information that is confidential by statute.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2021 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.