Regents vote to end outside inquiry into Chancellor
The Nevada Higher Education System Board of Regents voted 9-3 on Thursday to officially end an outside investigation into a hostile workplace complaint filed last year by Chancellor Melody Rose against two senior regents.
The move elevates those regents, Cathy McAdoo and Patrick Carter, to their positions as president and vice president, after the couple temporarily stepped down from their leadership positions in November, at the time explicitly tying the decision to the end of the outside law firm. investigation.
Thursday’s vote marks the latest twist in the now four-month-long investigation into the Chancellor’s allegations, and came despite an unexpected last minute recommendation in-house legal counsel that the seven regents named in the complaint — the majority of the board — should abstain from voting amid wider concerns about possible ethics violations.
None of these regents complied with this recommendation, with some claiming in part that simply being named in the report did not represent a material conflict of interest under state law.
“That seven of us should abstain because we are named in the complaint, I find just unbelievable.” Geddes said at the meeting. “I don’t know if you can just name people in complaints, and they’re no longer allowed to vote on issues without there being a fact or a definition of what’s going on there.”
Yet in explaining her recommendation to the board on Thursday, NSHE Deputy Chief Counsel Yvonne Nevarez-Goodson — also a former executive director of the state ethics commission — said the mere existence of an investigation created a conflict, especially given the possible disputes that might arise from the investigation.
Only four regents opposed Thursday’s motion, including Pro Tempore President Carol Del Carlo, Pro Tempore Vice President Amy Carvalho and Regents Donald McMichael and John T. Moran. However, Moran – who called the meeting remotely – dropped the call before the vote and was officially recorded as absent.
These regents have largely characterized the motion of approval as a decision to continue with business as usual, despite the events of the past four months.
“I want to move forward too, but the approval vote for me is status quo,” Del Carlo said. “And it was and it wasn’t working for us before and it doesn’t address any of the underlying issues that got us here.”
Thursday’s meeting otherwise avoided any mention of the contents of the report, and it remains unclear how the situation with the chancellor might evolve in the coming weeks.
In the original complaint filed last October, Rose alleged that then-board chairman McAdoo and vice president Carter discriminated against her because of her gender and sought to downplay her effectiveness. as Chancellor ahead of an expected bid to oust him from the system.
Later additions to this complaint raised new allegations of retaliation against five additional regents, with allegations of varying severity.
These allegations include an incident at a closed meeting in December in which a regent, Byron Brooks, tried to intimidate him – allegations that Brooks later denied and called “unwarranted”. The report ultimately determined that the allegations did not constitute evidence of a hostile gender-based work environment.
But it also includes more minor incidents, including one in which Regent Jason Geddes chaired the meeting electing temporary leaders without informing the Chancellor; another in which Regent Joseph Arrascada questioned a planned trip to Arizona by the Chancellor; another in which Regent Patrick Boylan repeatedly questioned remarks made by the Chancellor during her address on the state of the system; and another in which three regents, Geddes, Arrascada and Perkins, requested that the matter of a special advocate for the board of regents be added to a future agenda.
An investigation report released internally to Regents this month found “insufficient evidence” that any of the allegations amounted to discrimination or sexual harassment, although it also found that certain Regents behavior described in the complaints could still constitute ethical violations. The allegations of retaliation were also deemed insufficient.
In recent days, the Chancellor’s allies have publicly gone on the defensive. In a letter Wednesday to the state ethics committee, four major business groups and the AFL-CIO — all groups that supported Question 1 of the 2020 ballot and have criticized the regents in the past — have argued that outer inquiry creates new grounds for a distinct ethic. investigation.
And in a surprise letter At the Regents on Wednesday, Governor Steve Sisolak threw his weight behind the Chancellor, calling her a “tested partner and leader”.
“I implore you to put students, faculty and staff at the center of your decision-making and to do so by working closely with Chancellor Rose and the entire NSHE team,” Sisolak wrote. “Your leadership, or lack thereof, could very well shape the future of our state.”
In a statement to the council during public comments, the chancellor’s personal lawyer, Jennifer Hostetler, said she was “disappointed” with the investigation report.
“Chancellor Rose just wants to be able to do her job,” Hostetler said. “She remains committed to focusing on Nevada students and taking action to improve transparency, accountability, and student outcomes in Nevada’s higher education system. I hope she will have the opportunity to do so.