Santini: still watching over his university
by Andrew Barbáno
/ Expanded from the 11-17-1996 Daily
Sparks Tribune / Updated 10-14-2017
This is an
edition of the University Scandals 96-97 series, selected installments
of which were submitted for Pulitzer Prize consideration. Click
here to access the archive.
man plus the truth constitutes a majority"
Las Vegas Israelite
when I lived down in Gomorrah South, Jack and Bea Tell made that the
motto of their feisty weekly newspaper. More than 25 years ago, I moved
to Reno. One of the first people I ever met here, in the brand new Peppermill
Coffee Shop, was a Nevada Gaming Control Board investigator named Clark
Santini. He was having lunch with his two young children at the next
I don't recall whether
a mutual acquaintance introduced him, or if he introduced himself after
overhearing the conversation at my table. By the end of our meals, I
had a friend named Clark Santini.
"What an aggressively
gregarious guy," I thought to myself. Clark Santini would be part of
my life, as he was part of so many others, till the day he died on the
banks of the mucky Truckee last Thursday. His tireless labor for the
community, for little people having tough times, for the university
he loved, for Rancho San Rafael - all will have been recounted many
times before you read this. Clark Santini's good work will always be
with us. He will forever remain a man of the majority made by the truth.
The last time I saw him,
earlier this year, I was airing up my tires at a gas station near downtown
Reno. He rode up on his bicycle, dressed in shirt and tie. We talked
about some political outrage or other. "I'll send you some stuff on
it," he promised as he rode away. Clark was always sending people some
stuff on something that needed public attention.
Much of the stuff he
sent was well worth saving. When I started digging in to the ongoing
outrages perpetrated by the hierarchy of the University of Nevada system,
I went to my file and found it filled with messages from Clark Santini.
I can write no better tribute to the man than to use his own words of
warning from several years ago.
In his own sprawling
longhand, dated June 12, 1993, he wrote "Andy, I'd appreciate your sharing
this information about the crisis in leadership (lack thereof) at UNR.
(President Joe) Crowley should follow Chris Ault's example resigning
as football coach. Crowley should give the regents notice that 93-94
is his last year so that they can start a nationwide search for a president
to lead UNR into the 21st century. He got the presidency via a political
fix which Rollan Melton admits to in his June 16 Reno Gazette-Journal
Santini went on to accuse
Crowley of putting his own stooge in as vice-president of development,
a position which automatically makes that person boss of the UNR Foundation.
It's been a standing joke at the U for years that Crowley changed the
job description so that no experience was necessary. Paul Page has proven
disastrous in the position. The UNR and UNLV foundations stink to high
heaven. Missing moneys are measured in increments of $2 million, as
I have been reporting for a month. The hiring of Page caused Santini
to resign from the UNR Alumni Council.
has come to my attention regarding discriminatory employment practices
personally involving President Joe Crowley and Vice-President Paul Page,"
Santini wrote in his letter of resignation dated on Martin Luther King's
birthday, January 15, 1993. "My resignation is tendered as a specific
protest of a major act of employment discrimination which, in good conscience,
makes it personally impossible to any longer support the current president
or current vice-president of development," Santini stated.
In his resignation, he
told the story of his famous uncle's departure from the U many years
before. "Forty years ago, the distinguished author ("The Ox Bow Incident")
and educator Walter Van Tilburg Clark resigned to publicly protest actions
by then University of Nevada President Minard Stout." (Stout fired a
professor because of what the man had written in an article.)
"As Clark stated at the
time," Santini wrote, "he could no longer abide by any association with
a university president whose only administrative purpose was to create
a 'manageable mediocrity' and to do it with the economic terrorist tactics
of summary firings for the most basic freedom - freedom of speech. Recent
trends in the Crowley-Page administration have encouraged a climate
of censorship of any opposing viewpoints or positions," Santini stated.
Because it dares dissent
from the party line, the independence of UNR's student newspaper, Sagebrush,
is once again under attack. The bad guys want to move it under the authority
of the school of journalism, where it will become a puff newsletter
for the Jarvis-Crowley-Ault regime. It can't happen here? Read on.
The university is "a
very toxic place to be," a current victim told me recently. Those who
go along, get along. The underqualified get overpaid and promoted. Those
who question the money wasting, corrupt system are shunned like lepers.
Joe Crowley's regime
is chillingly similar to the Washoe County Airport Authority under Bob
White and especially the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority
under Jay Milligan. Like Crowley, Milligan lobbied his way into a top
job for which he had no qualifications. This column was the first to
point out his shortcomings as far back as 1988. I have long criticized
Milligan for hiring and overpaying the underqualified, but the situation
remained unaddressed until matters got so bad that Milligan finally
stepped down. He'll retire a wealthy man at the end of this year. Reno
richly rewards the incompetent.
The area's principal
promotional entity is now stuck in neutral while the gambling-industrial
complex laments continuing flat business. It's their own damned fault.
UNR is no different.
at UNR based on cronyism and good-ole-boy favoritism inevitably reward
inferior personnel and punish superior candidates," Santini wrote almost
four years ago. "These two trends, if unabated, will set UNR, again,
on the narrow-minded, freedom squelching path to a campus of 'manageable
mediocrity.' My prayer is that we can still just learn from the past,
not repeat it," Santini concluded.
The man once named outstanding
alumnus sent his letter to the entire board of regents. Apparently,
it was disregarded. In life, many people took Clark Santini lightly.
In death, Clark comes off clairvoyant as Cassandra.
It is irksomely ironic
that the UNR Foundation is headquartered in venerable Morrill Hall,
where Walter Van Tilburg Clark's chair, donated by Clark Santini, once
sat until some ill-advised remodeling. As I have documented in the last
three installments of this column, the literally countless (even Chancellor
Richard Jarvis could not tell me how many currently operate) foundations
infecting the university system are used to shield activities from public
scrutiny and allow some people to live like kings.
I broke the story of
how $2 million in proceeds from the university-owned Marigold Mine are
missing in action. Construction on a new mines library, scheduled to
begin tomorrow, has been delayed because the money is missing. The delay
endangers almost $10 million in federal funds. Earmarked federal money
has in the past been illegally diverted to the wrong purposes and covered
up, as in the case of the $187,000 Lawlor Events Center basketball floor
and backboards, which are apparently necessary to our national defense.
UNR Foundation Treasurer
Jenny Frayer told me I was wrong, that she could show me that the Marigold
Mine money's all present and accounted for. We were to have met last
Wednesday to review records. I was going to call the acting dean of
the Mackay School of Mines with the good news and offer to pick up a
On Tuesday, I got a call
from a UNR PR man named Terry Maurer, who notified me that my meeting
had been canceled. Ms. Frayer had scheduled it before seeing the third
installment of this series which ran last Sunday. After reading it,
the administration now knows that everything they tell me "will be misconstrued,"
Mr. Maurer said. I guess the first two installments, by contrast, were
deemed fair and factual by the Crowley boys. Nonetheless, because of
intallment three, they were canceling my appointment and would henceforth
only respond to written questions.
This came just days after
Maurer's boss, Paul Page, assured me that everything was open to inspection.
I asked Mr. Maurer who gave the order to chicken out on the Tribune.
He refused to say.
Mr. Maurer then faxed
me forms to fill out. All documents would cost 50 cents per page, plus
$5.00 per hour search time, plus any other costs related thereto. Ms.
Frayer had been readying copies of tax returns for me without my even
asking. She never mentioned a fee.
form requires a signature and the number of a "Nevada driver's license
or other valid i.d." Remembering the above quote about the university
as "a very toxic place to be," what is the real message of the PR man's
form? I submit it says "we know where you live." Any fool knows that
once he has procured a Nevada driver's license number, application of
a publicly available decoding formula can produce the licensee's Social
Security number. Then, it's a simple matter to run credit and background
checks to learn how to destroy the dissenter.
It can't happen here?
I've disclosed legal settlements over just such harassment issues, hidden
by the Crowley regime as salaries of ghost professors who never show
up for work. At least one currently makes $100,000 a year. He or she
has been employed at another university for quite some time. More disclosures
will soon appear here and in other Nevada media.
Maurer stated, in writing,
that all requests would be handled as prescribed under Nevada Revised
Statutes 239.010. He knew not of whence he spoke. That section states
"all public books and public records of a public agency, a university
foundation or an educational foundation, the contents of which are not
otherwise declared by law to be confidential, must be open at all times
during office hours to inspection by any person." The only exemption
under Nevada law is for foundation donors. Ms. Frayer made it quite
clear that she would disclose no donor information.
In calling me a liar
in last Sunday's Tribune, UNR Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman
Luther Mack stated "mining royalties have never been recorded as donations
to the Foundation." This means that all Marigold Mines records at the
Foundation are public records and thus open to inspection under the
same law Mr. Maurer quoted as governing future dealings with the Tribune.
Mr. Maurer's bosses refused me permission to review documents at Ms.
Frayer's office in Morrill Hall last Wednesday, thus blatantly breaking
the Nevada public records law. Monetary sanctions and legal fees are
available to myself and the Tribune through the court system. Stay tuned.
It should be noted that
local McDonald's mogul Mr. Mack is a highly respected member of this
community. He sits on the board of the Washoe County Airport Authority,
and has been a board member of the convention authority, two bodies
which operate in a fashion curiously similar to the UNR Foundation.
Mr. Mack further stated in his letter that "we have no mining officials
on our 56-member public board."
Notice his use of the
present tense. On November 3, I wrote that an executive with Rayrock
Mines, the company operating the Marigold claim, "has held a seat on
the foundation board, raising more conflict of interest questions."
Longtime university system treasurer Janet
MacDonald resigned last summer, questioning the use of the foundation
as an accounting gimmick to give Rayrock a $75,000 per year tax deduction
rightfully belonging to the university.
The first rule of cross-examination
is never ask a question for which you don't already know the answer.
I asked Jenny Frayer if Elko attorney John C. Miller had ever sat on
the foundation board. She was truthful and admitted it. Filings with
the Nevada secretary of state show Mr. Miller as resident agent of Rayrock
Mines from 1983 to 1994, during which time the tax shunting scheme was
I don't believe Mr. Mack
wrote that letter to the Tribune. I think Joe Crowley or Paul Page did
and Luther just signed it. He really needs to re-evaluate the loan of
his excellent reputation to public bodies of questionable character.
SMOKING GUN DEPT.
The last item on the UNR board of regents agenda last week was a request
"for a loan in the amount of approximately $2 million to complete the
Mackay School of Mines Library." Ms. Frayer says the money's there,
but her bosses illegally kept me from reviewing the records before the
regents meeting and vote. We'll see what the lawyers say next week.
MY FINAL WORDS TO
CLARK SANTINI. My Tribune colleague in columny Jake
Highton visited Clark at St. Mary's hospital, not long before
he died. Clark had his friend Mike Robinson call me and ask for a copy
of my writings. Here's part of my final message to Santini in this lifetime:
"Clark, you have certainly
not left the university in her hour of need. The research you sent me
three years ago has been very useful in my current series. A citizens
committee needs to be formed, and it needs Clark Santini. Get well,
old friend, and quick. We need your experience, your wisdom and your
I was trying to give
him a little additional will to live. Nothing pains a writer more than
knowing his words have failed. But the fighting spirit of Clark Santini
will not fail us as we fight to right the wrongs infesting the institution
he and his family loved so much.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is
a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 28-year Nevadan.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Daily
Sparks Tribune since 1988.
This column originally published 11/3/96. Copyright © 1996,
2010, 2017 Andrew Barbano