Howard Rosenberg: unlikely David vs. Philistine Elite

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.

"We voted for him. It's appalling these people can say 'you guys voted wrong and we're going to take care of it.' I'm willing to fight for my vote and that's what I intend to do." --- Reno college student Jennifer O'Neil

Ms. O'Neil called me to ask "what can I do?" She has never met Howard Rosenberg. Neither has her mother, nor her neighbors. All of the above have expressed anger at last week's power play by the jockocracy at the University of Nevada.

Our wonderful repository of higher education, charged with bringing the flowers of our youth to full fruition, those wonderful people running the expensive TV campaign in which UNR solves all the problems of the world - that same outfit is busily trying to nullify a fair and square election.

POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK DEPT. Last Monday, University of Nevada lawyer Don Klasic, representing Chancellor Richard Jarvis, filed a pound of paper with the Nevada ethics commission. The Philistines in the charcoal gray suits don't want an advocate of the students putting the lid down on their lucrative cookie jar. Mr. Klasic has become their designated cookie monster.

Mr. Klasic's opus runs between 75 and 100 pages. I stayed up late reading the damned thing, and nowhere did Mr. Klasic disclaim his own blatant conflict of interest. He's acting as lawyer for the university which currently employs Dr. Rosenberg, trying to keep Rosenberg out of the office to which he was freely and fairly elected. Klasic will also be Rosenberg's lawyer when he is sworn in come January, but is working hard to either keep him from serving or force him to resign his professorship.

Mr. Klasic has conflicts of interest up the kazoo, but that doesn't seem to bother him. He is not the first university lawyer exhibiting the ethics of a dung beetle. He should have told Boss Jarvis to go hire outside counsel to persecute Rosenberg. Klasic, a career government lawyer, didn't have the chops.

JARVIS JIVE: BLACK POT PART DEUX. These guys running the U are a self-satirizing cartoon, a B-movie in bad costumes. Here's Chancellor Richard Jarvis, the leader of the pack, the captain of the pirate ship, Blackbeard on the poopdeck. Richard the Lyinhearted, acting only on his own exaltedness and a solo request by Gomorrah South regent Madison Graves III, had Klasic draft this pound of paper attempting to extract a pound of Rosenberg's flesh. Klasic even had the chutzpah to add that he was doing all this in Mr. Rosenberg's, the university's and the public's best interest. These guys are a barrel of laughs.

Klasic's classic hatchet job boils down to a non-stop series of irrelevant examples alleging that Rosenberg must quit his job of 29 years in order to serve in the unpaid position to which he was duly elected. Nevada Atty. Gen. Frankie Sue Del Papa, herself a former UNR student body president and former regent, advised Rosenberg early on that his candidacy was perfectly kosher. Of course, that was back when nobody thought he could win.

Now come Ali Baba and the 40 stooges who accuse Prof. Rosenberg while ignoring their own corruption. Mr. Jarvis' wife has a posh job at the Desert Research Institute (DRI). Her official title is "chief financial and administrative officer." Her husband is her boss' boss. Section 281.210 of the Nevada Revised Statutes states "it is unlawful for any person acting employing authority of the University and Community College System of employ in any capacity...any relative...who is within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity."

Mrs. Jarvis' employment thus looks as illegal as double parking. But she's no threat to the system, so the system sits shiva. Why have Mssrs. Jarvis and Klasic not brought an action before the ethics commission clarifying Mrs. Jarvis' status? Because we're dealing with dung beetles here.

"I'll be one of eleven regents," art and cinema teacher Rosenberg told me last week. "What are they so afraid of?"

The only plausible answer anyone has brought forward asserts that with Rosenberg on the board, maverick Las Vegas regent Nancy Price might finally have a second to some of her motions. A solo voice crying in the wilderness generates little attention. A unified shunning of the shouter works very well. Mr. Jarvis and UNR President Joe Crowley have been able to get their money wasting programs rubber stamped by the current rollover board.

MORE MILLIONS DOWN THE DRAIN. This month's regents meeting in Reno provides a perfect example of the efficiency of Sir Richard the Rubberstamp. Regent Price did not attend, but it didn't matter. There would have been no second to her motions questioning the latest cash hemorrhages.

The compliant Reno Gazette-Journal reported none of the important issues, choosing instead to fawn over the fat new contract given to Desert Research Institute head Jim Taranik, who will step down next year to become just another UNR professor with lifetime tenure. The Kazoo-Journal didn't even know the magic question to ask: will he still get his exorbitant current salary while serving as a teacher?

The style of the U-system has been to reward compliant pet administrators with fat teaching positions forevermore. An informed source tells me that former UNLV provost John Unruh also stepped down to become a teacher making upwards of $100,000 a year for spending just six hours a week in class. Nice work if you can get it and you can get if you try.

As I warned last Sunday, Mssrs. Jarvis and Crowley were coming before the board for millions to bail their butts out because they so mismanage our very rich U that they can't pay the bills. The rollover regents performed as trained, ripping off $1.3 million from somewhere. (No one will say exactly. They keep lots of bucks hidden under lots of shells.) The money will go to cover two quarters of past due workers compensation premiums owed to the Nevada State Industrial Insurance System. They are also looking to skim another $3.5 million for SIIS from a heretofore untouchable endowment funded by federal estate tax money. A UNR official told me that the estate tax skim might be illegal, but no one in the administration will look into that as long as the likes of Klasic and Jarvis are running the show. To start looking into illegality, they would have to gaze in a mirror.

"That's financial irresponsibility, robbing Peter to pay Paul," said another longtime university official. "That's deficit spending and calling it a loan. The university has one bank account with all operating money in it. This is the only place it could come from if they did not specify," the official said. The U refuses to talk to the Tribune, responding to questions with press releases. I asked their PR person for the results of the regents meeting. Mr. Jarvis refused to specify the source of the $1.3 million "loan." My official source added that any redirection of operating funds means somebody else won't get paid. Period. "This is obscene. Financial incest."

The kissin' cousins will also pay a $52,000 fine for getting behind, a fact reported nowhere but here. That's a lot of scholarships.

Crowley and Co. are totally insensitive on the subject of fines because they don't hesitate to charge them - to their students. Next spring, broke UNR students will face a 900 percent late charge increase if they can't pay all their tuition upfront, from a maximum of $25 to $250. This comes on top of many other Crowley regime ripoffs stealing from the students so that the suits can live like kings. For more than a decade, the jockocracy has raised and skimmed student health service moneys and turned them into a welfare subsidy for UNR professional sports enterprises.

A freshman now pays a mandatory $50 "orientation fee" to cover a tour of the campus for those so geographically inept they can't find Manzanita Lake or the men's room. As part of his campaign, Prof. Howard Rosenberg opposed these increasing and unnecessary burdens, calling them "cash cows." Damn, he won, said Ali Baba and Blackbeard. Off with his head.

FREEDOM UNDER A FULL COURT PRESS. The student newspaper, Sagebrush, again in jeopardy of losing its independence because it won't act as Pravda for the party line, said this in a recent editorial: "At a time when a student's funds are already crunched, the University of Nevada Regents have found yet another way to make the pursuit of higher education tedious. The obscene increase in the penalty for late payment of tuition...will hurt most those who already feel the financial crunch...The late fees will put the Reno campus in line with those of Las Vegas, it seems. First we've heard of this problem. UNLVegans pay $20 for health center fees versus Reno's $57..." Sagebrush said.

"It's time students started wondering where all the money's going. Surely this money isn't tagged for those six-digit incomes of administrators and deans, but these figures do tend to fascinate...Just a few familiar names - Joe Crowley, president, makes $179,667. Paul Page, vice-president...makes $125,501. Pat Miltenberger, v.p. for student services, $114,707...the king of the med school, Robert Daugherty, is listed on the payroll twice, his deanly income a mere $182,112 with a pittance of $15,836 for a related subdeanly task," Sagebrush groused. (Retirement benefits and other perks substantially increase the above base figures.)

"These comfy incomes don't seem to be trickling down to your assistant professors and lecturers, however. Chances are that the faculty who've labored over your term papers are making just slightly more per hour than a Sagebrush columnist," the November 15 editorial concluded.

CASPER COLLECTS COPIOUS COIN: For the past four Sundays, I've related financial and personal horror stories worthy of a Franz Kafka novel. Ghost professors who never show up for work remain on the payroll for $100,000 a year (a way to hide embarrassing legal settlements). Chancellor Jarvis said he knew of no such thing when we talked a couple of weeks ago. He promised to investigate. I'm still waiting. He also promised to ask lawyer Klasic for a list of court cases. I'm still waiting.

According to an article by UNR Profs. Thomas Wright and Laurie Larwood in the September '96 Journal of Management Inquiry, "the latest available figures from the chancellor's that it is involved in approximately 60 lawsuits and administrative proceedings, many stemming from the personnel issues discussed here or others similar to them."

In May of last year, the same two courageous dissidents made a presentation to the regents about the corrosive favoritism and oppression of the regime. The Tribune printed the story, of course. The Kazoo-Journal silently sat shiva as usual. Wright and Larwood charged that "the UNS Code is being flagrantly abused by members of the UNR administration. Administrators are allowed to fabricate charges and then act as judge, jury, witness for the prosecution and executioner. This will result in lawsuits and publicity detrimental to the University," they stated. "President Crowley has been formally made aware of this condition." Just as Jarvis was made aware of the ghost professors more than a year ago, but nonetheless told me he knew nothing. He also pleaded ignorance of the $2 million missing at the UNR Foundation, funds earmarked for construction of a new mines library.

As only this column reported last Sunday, a request on the November regents agenda for $2 million to pay for the project proves that the money's missing somewhere, very possibly to settle another lawsuit. They plan to steal the money from student funds earmarked to maintain student housing. Outrageous.

In an interview with Tribune columnist Dennis Myers, printed in the Reno News & Review earlier this month, former deputy state controller Mary Sanada added new confirmation to charges of uncontrolled secret borrowing and deficit spending. One reason the prestigious Mackay School of Mines has gone without a dean for years lies in the fact that a long gone former dean is still collecting a six-figure annual legal settlement. (A new dean will start next July, right after the last check to the old dean clears.)

DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO: The official strategic direction of the University and Community College System of Nevada, posted on the internet, contains an accountability statement. "As a public institution, the UCCSN is committed to conducting its business in an open manner...the UCCSN will exercise responsible stewardship of resources..." Nothing could be further from the truth. The university foundation broke the state public records law when it canceled an appointment with this writer to review public financial data on the university-owned Marigold Mine before the recent regents' vote. Mine proceeds were the source of the missing $2 million.

MONEY, POWER AND JUICE DEPT. All of this explains why Prof. Rosenberg is perceived as a threat. He wants to stop the ripoff of his financially struggling students. He may at long last provide a second to some of the motions of crusading Regent Price. The legal research to destroy Rosenberg was in the works well before the election. His well-funded opponent, Mary-Ellen McMullen, told me so. The first volley was fired by McMullen's campaign four days before the election. They released a June letter from the puppet legislative counsel bureau to Assembly Speaker Joe Dini (D-Yerington). That memo now acts as the basis for lawyer Klasic's one pound paean to the pomposity of power.

Mr. Dini raised the better part of $200,000 in a rural Nevada district with no Republican opponent. His campaign contributor list reveals a who's who of the fatcat lobbying clients of Mrs. McMullen's lawyer-husband, Sam, and her lawyer-campaign treasurer, Harvey Whittemore, the most powerful juiceman in the state. The most egregious on Dini's list are Philip Morris Tobacco, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, ARCO, Southland Corporation (7-11 Stores), and International Game Technology (IGT), which also gave $2,500 to Mrs. McMullen's campaign. An IGT executive sits on the Nevada Ethics Commission charged with judging Mr. Rosenberg's fitness for office. So does an exec from Southland. Looks as impartial as a hangman's convention.

The only other problem with the filing before the ethics commission is that Klasic utterly fails to make his case that Rosenberg must leave his beloved students in order to serve as regent. For all its length, Klasic's tome does not make the necessary connection that a regent exercises operational control over professors' salaries or grievances. Klasic himself notes that the buck stops with university presidents, not regents. He cynically raises the spectre that paying Prof. Rosenberg to teach after he becomes Regent Rosenberg might constitute a felony - drivel designed for TV and aired without counterweight by KOLO TV-8 last week. Klasic and his bosses may be immoral, but they know how to dress in pink to pimp on the streetcorners of soundbyte city

FIGHT BACK. Jennifer O'Neil is a mother and a college student. She will not stand by while the pirates in the ivory tower try to consolidate their power. "I'm tired of people doing things that are wrong. I follow the rules. I get mad when I see people who say 'we don't have to follow the rules.' They should just suck it up and forget it. I know a lot of people who feel that way. Howard Rosenberg ran an election the way it should be done. They can't stand that. They put money into Mary-Ellen," she told me.

Ms. O'Neil wants to work at forming a citizens committee to keep the public's vote from being stolen and to investigate the wholesale corruption in the university system. I'm gathering more names every day. E-mail me at the addresses below, or spend 32 cents to P.O. Box 10034, Reno, NV 89510. I'll also make all columns of this now five-part series available to anyone with e-mail download capability. By midweek, a complete set will be available for about a dollar at Office Depot next to Costco on Plumb Lane in Reno. Ask at the business services desk. You can also pick up back issues of the Tribune for 35 cents each at 10th and "C" streets in Sparks, next to the Silver Club tower.

ADIOS, CAUDILLO: Our fearless leader, Tribune editor Bryan Jacobson, is departing for greener pastures. Of all the editors I've worked with at this paper since 1988, he's the first I'm wishing a public and fond farewell. With his departure, Sparks loses a tremendous community asset. May he and his family live long and prosper, and of course...

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 Andrew Barbano

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