ROSENBERG: the most powerful man in Nevada
Expanded from the 12-1-96 Daily
Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
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.
I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean neither
more nor less."
week, the attempt to keep university regent-elect Howard Rosenberg from
taking office takes a new series of increasingly bizarre twists. However,
the principal question remains unanswered: what's the big deal?
this: If he gets seated on the University and Community College System
of Nevada Board of Regents, he may affect who becomes the next governor
of Nevada. That's a very big deal and effectively makes UNR Prof. Rosenberg
the most powerful man in the state.
the face of it, Mr. Rosenberg would become just one of 11 university
regents upon taking office next January. Why train all that publicly
financed firepower on one poor teacher who just wants to direct more
spending toward his students?
Even if you're running
why sweat Rosenberg? Couldn't the servants of the jockocracy simply
shun him as just another crazy person, exactly as they've done for four
years with dissident Las Vegas regent Nancy Price? Granted, it may be
a bit of a stretch to ask the public to swallow that two certifiably
crazy people have been elected to serve simultaneously on the prestigious
board of 11, but everybody thinks you've got to be nuts to hold public
Nutcases seem to abound
in academia. Judging by recent events, whatever the university administration
has been paying for legal and PR advice is insanely too high. By filing
actions against Rosenberg before he ever takes office, they've made
his story bigger than the governor's prostate surgery. And much more
UNR president Joe Crowley,
system chancellor Richard Jarvis and learned counsel Don Klasic have
elevated the Rosenberg affair to national prominence for no apparent
gfilings, first to the state ethics commission, then with the attorney
general, Ali Baba and the 40 stooges seem merely concerned that Nevada
law does not allow a professor to sit on the board of regents and still
get paid for teaching.
However, if they were
really so hung up, why have they never asked for an ethics or legal
opinion on the status of 10-year Sparks Regent Jim Eardley? If you put
lawyer Klasic's one-pound Rosenberg filing into a computer and instruct
it replace "Rosenberg" with "Eardley," you'd find that identical charges
can be made.
Eardley, former president
of Truckee Meadows Community College, receives retirement income based
upon his long tenure with the university system. Now, read part of the
law the university power structure is using against Rosenberg, quoted
directly from Chancellor Jarvis' November 18 letter to the ethics commission:
"A member of the Board of Regents shall not be interof Regents or in
the profit thereof...a state officer or employee shall not be interested,
directly or indirectly, in any profit or compensation resulting from
a contract in which the employing state is interested or affected."
With all due respect
to Humpty Dumpty, the ethics commission must primarily look at the legal
wording as meaning exactly what it seems. The legislative pedigree of
some of the above may undercut the university hierarchy's case, but
that's for lawyers to fight out.
The statute first martialed
against Rosenberg by Assembly Speaker Joe Dini (D-Yerington) was passed
in 1975, seemingly to regulate relationships with university vendors.
A June letter to Dini from his minions at the legislative counsel bureau
was released just before last month'sby Rosenberg's big money opponent,
Mary-Ellen McMullen. It serves as the fuel with which university system
lawyer Klasic has lit his torch to fire Rosenberg.
But why Rosenberg, and
why now? Former Sparks city councilman Eardley was elected regent 11
years ago and nobody has yet peeped a squeak. But is Eardley's retirement
contract from the U any different than Rosenberg's teaching contract?
When is a contract not a contract? When is a rose not a rose? When will
Humpty Dumpty come out of retirement to settle the issue?
Not even learned lawyer
Klasic is sure that the ethics commission has jurisdiction to fully
address the issues. In his letter asking Atty. Gen. Frankie Sue Del
Papa to also issue an opinion on the matter, Klasic writes "I am not
clear whether the ethics commission may render its opinion on other
conflict of interest statutes which may affect the issue of whether
Mr. Rosenberg can serve on the board of regents while employed at UNR."
The ethics commto Klasic,
asking her honorableness to address additional conflict of interest
laws. The strategy misses one very obvious point: Howard Rosenberg is
not yet a public officer subject to any of the laws brought forward.
He is not due to be sworn in until January. However, Louis Ling, Del
Papa's deputy assigned to the ethics commission, told me that the commission
intends to jockey its January agenda to fast-track the Rosenberg affair
before he can take office.
"It is important...that
an opinion concerning whether there is a conflict of interest...be issued
before Mr. Rosenberg takes office," Jarvis wrote to the ethics commission
and reiterated to the attorney general. Oh really? Why? What's the big
What's good for the goose
is good for the gander. Accordingly, I am asking by means of this column
and a followup filing to the ethics commission, that Regent Eardley's
situation be reviewed simultaneously with that of regent-elect Rosenberg.
I am furtdisclosure reports of all retiring, remaining and incoming
regents. In addition, I am requesting disclosure reports for all six
members of the ethics commission and any replacements who may sit on
this case. I am also asking that any replacements be intensively criticized
for potential conflicts of interest.
Half of the ethics commission
already stands disqualified from sitting on the Rosenberg matter, leaving
less than a quorum. Reno member Jud Allen has informed Rosenberg that
he will recuse himself because he views Rosenberg as a personal friend.
A look at the multifarious conflicts of interest of two other members
puts them permanently on the sidelines. I will quote directly from the
text of my ethics commission filing:
"Please consider this
memo a citizen request or formal complaint asking that the State of
Nevada Commission on Ethics take the following actions. (1) Join University
of Nevada Regent James Eardley as a party...(2) Add additional members
of the board of regents as Disqualify ethics commission vice-chair Helen
Chisholm and member Scott Scherer from acting in the aboventitled matter
and any expansion thereof.
"Ms. Chisholm is an employee
of Southland Corporation. According to the lobbyist disclosure list
of the 1995 Nevada Legislature, Southland retained attorney Harvey Whittemore
as its lobbyist, as it had done in previous legislative sessions. Mr.
Whittemore served as campaign treasurer for Mr. Rosenberg's opponent,
Mary-Ellen McMullen. Southland contributed at least $2,000 to the 1996
re-election campaign of Assemblyman Joe Dini (D-Yerington), through
the 21 October 1996 disclosure period.
"Mr. Scherer, a former
Clark County Republican assemblyman, is an employee of International
Game Technology (IGT). According to the lobbyist disclosure list of
the 1995 Nevada Legislature, IGT retained attorney Harvey Whittemore
as its lobbyist. IGT is a major sponsor of the American Gaming Summit
scheduled December 4 and 5, 1996, at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Mr.
Whittemore's law firm, Lionel Sawyer and Collins, acts as co-producer
of the American Gaming Summit. IGT contributed $2,500 this year to the
campaign of Mr. Rosenberg's opponent, Mary-Ellen McMullen. IGT contributed
at least $2,000 to the 1996 re-election campaign of Assemblyman Joe
Dini (D-Yerington), through the 21 October 1996 disclosure period.
"In the 1993 and 1995
legislative sessions, lawyer Sam McMullen, husband of Rosenberg election
opponent Mary-Ellen McMullen, registered as a lobbyist for $3,000 to
Mr. Dini's 1995 campaign through the 21 October 1996 reporting period.
Barrick contributed at least $750 to the campaign of Mrs. McMullen.
"Through October 21,
1996, Mr. Dini received at least
* $2,000 from Philip
Morris Management Corporation. Philip Morris USA is listed as a 1995
Sam McMullen lobbying client.
* $1,500 from the Tobacco
Institute, of which RJ Reynolds Tobacco USA, a 1995 Harvey Whittemore
lobbying client, may be a member; of which Philip Morris USA or Philip
Morris Management Corp. may be members.
* $2,000 from Sierra
Pacific Power, a 1995 Sam McMullen lobbying client.
* $1,000 from ARCO, a
Whittemore lobbying client.
* $1,000 from Station
Casinos, Inc., which may be a member of the Nevada Resort Assn., a 1995
Whittemore lobbying client.
* $750 from the Utility
Shareholders Assn. of Nevada, made up largely of stockholders in Sierra
Pacific Power, a 1995 Sam McMullen lobbying client.
* $2,000 from Nevada
Resort Assn., a 1995 Whittemore lobbying client. Circus Circus President
Glenn Schaeffer is advertised as a keynote speaker at the American Gaming
Summit, an event co-produced by Mr. Whittemore's law firm.
* $1,500 from the Nevada
Mining Association PAC; Barrick Goldstrike, a Sam McMullen client, may
be a member of that association.
* $2,500 from NSEA/TIP.
The Nevada State Education Association is a 1995 Whittemore lobbying
* $2,500 from Mirage
Resorts, which has been a member of the Nevada Resort Assn., a Whittemore
client. Mirage Resorts donated at least $756.50 worth of services to
the campaign of Mary-Ellen McMullen. Mirage Chairman Steve Wynn is advertised
as a keynote speaker at the American Gaming Summit, an event co-produced
by Mr. Whittemore's law firm.
"A letter to Mr. Dini
from legislative counsel Brenda J. Erdoes, dated 19 June 1996, released
to Nevada newsmedia on 25 October 1996, acts as the starting point for
Mr. Jarvis' complaint in the aboventitled matter. Ms. Erdoes first deployed
many of the legal citations later employed by UCCSN attorney Donald
Klasic for Mr. Jarvis'least the appearance of conflict of interest for
Ms. Chisholm and Mr. Scherer, both of whom should recuse themselves
from any participation in this matter," my filing with the commission
concludes. I have no information at presstime about other commissioners.
The chair is held by Reno lawyer Mary Boetsch. Other members are retired
Washoe District Court Judge James Guinan and former Nye County sheriff
The current method by
which commission members step aside totally cripples the fast-tracking
of the Rosenberg case. Normally, they rise to announce their conflicts
at the beginning of the affected hearing. However, four commissioners
are required for a quorum. This necessitates Gov. Bob Miller nominating
a replacement for his appointee, Ms. Chisholm, and the legislature,
if in session, replacing their appointees, Mssrs. Allen and Scherer.
If the ledge does not go into session in time, the Legislative Commission,
which has long acted as a mini-legislature, can fill the slots.
However, a long-discussed
legal challenge to the power of interim legislative committees is finally
in the works. In other states, courts have held unconstitutional the
actions of interim committees functioning as mini-legislatures. If all
of this goes past the time of Rosenberg's swearing in, so much the better.
Then the issues can be joined and Mssrs. Eardley and Rosenberg, and
possibly other regents, can get a fair hearing. Other regents?
The more, the merrier.
Retiring Las Vegas regent Carolyn Sparks has an interest in an insurance
company with the U as a client. I understand that Elko regent Dorothy
Gallagher sits on the board of Blue Cross-Blue Shield, which provides
contract services to the university system. I could not reach her for
comment by deadline.
Incoming regent Tom Wiesner
holds gaming licenses. Other regents are eyeball-deep in the gambling
business. Board chair Madison Graves II, who without approval from his
fellow regents asked Jarvis to make the preemptive strike against Rosenberg,
sits on the board of directors of the Primadonna gaming and Primm City
development corporation. Las Vegas regent and former Democratic assemblywoman
Shelley Berkley is corporate counsel for the Las Vegas Sands Hotel-Casino.
As I reported earlier this year, she was placed in the unenviable position
of firing her own father in the process of closing the venerable property
for renovation. His work as a longtime Sands waiter put his daughter
through law school. Carolyn Sparks has an interest in the Las Vegas
Showboat Hotel-Casino, which has a major advertising contract for UNLV
Nevada gambling interests
are licking their chops over secret moves to allow wagering on UNR and
UNLV sporting events. The NCAA tournament is more lucrative than the
Super Bowl, but the way it stands today, if UNLV or UNR gets in, all
bets are off. The university board of regents has the power to authorize
Finally, I am asking
the ethics commission to review the propriety of Mrs. Richard Jarvis
holding a high position at the Desert Research Institute, part of the
university system, thus making her husband the boss of her boss. The
above list of potential conflicts will probably expand as I gather more
information. Had I not raised these issues, I doubt anyone would have.
I can recall no one challenging a regent's fitness to serve in my three
decades of raking muck here in the Outback of the American Dream. Certainly,
by challenging two commissioners, I may have placed Mr. Rosenberg in
greater jeopardy. Perhaps Ms. Chisholm and Mr. Scherer would have treated
him more fairly than whomever replaces them. While standing silent might
have helped Rosenberg, my purpose remains what it has always been -
equal opportunity harassment.
Three open slots means
a home game for the likes of Sam McMullen and Harvey Whittemore. They've
got clout, chits, checks and chips they can cash to rig the contest.
The defenders of the shaky university financial empire have chosen the
turf from the start. The ethics commission can at best provide a non-binding
excuse for the U not to seat Rosenberg. If he doesn't like it, he can
go to the state court system, another place where politics supersedes
law and justice.
Rosenberg's only hope
lies in a preemptive strike of his own, an action on constitutional
grounds in federal court. There is simply too much money and power at
stake to risk playing this game on a field already demonstrably far
THE END GAME:
Rumbles from Gomorrah South relay this scenario as explaining the Rosenberg
pogrom: Justice Cliff Young will retire by 1998. Gov. Miller will appoint
Atty. Gen. Del Papa, taking her out of the race to replace his lame
duck self. This leaves the Democratic nomination to Las Vegas Mayor
Jan Jones, already proven an abominable statewide campaigner against
Miller in the 1994 primary. Tall, rich, handsome, "don't forget I've
got a PhD" Dr. Kenny Guinn becomes the unopposed Republican nominee
and anointed governor by default. The gambling industrial complex wins
The only monkey wrenches
in this well-greased machinery are two little people, Howard Rosenberg
and Nancy Price, Diogenes and Cassandra seeking honesty and predicting
doom if no one listens. Rosenberg may provide a second to embarrassing
motions made by the maverick Price. Much of the embarrassment may involve
longtime U-groupie Guinn, UNLV's Mr. Fixit.
The university system
is a financial black hole making a lot of very powerful people very
rich. This column marks six in a row documenting expanding scandal,
favoritism, discrimination, illegal contracts, IRS shenanigans, missing
millions, hidden legal settlements, ghost professors getting paid $100,000
a year who never show up for work. Things are so out of control that
a new move is afoot to take over the UNR student newspaper, Sagebrush,
because it has dared to print a small portion of what I have revealed
over the past six weeks.
The literally countless
university foundations act as white collar money laundries, making fellow
travelers very successful at the bank. When regents follow orders from
the administration they supposedly control, everybody gets a piece of
the action and nobody says nuthin'. Show that you may not be a good
ole boy and you're looking down the barrel of the entire system's legal
apparatus, paid for by the taxpayers you purport to serve. It stinks.
PROPAGATE THE FAITH
DEPT. A Growing number of taxpayers statewide have expressed interest
in forming a dual purpose citizens committee. Their twin goals will
involve keeping the public's vote for Rosenberg from being stolen and
investigating the wholesale corruption in the university system. If
you're interested, e-mail
me or write P.O. Box 10034, Reno, NV 89510.
Due to popular demand,
reprints of the first five installments of this series can now be obtained
at three Reno-Sparks outlets. They are available for the cost of copying
at both Reno locations of Office Depot next to Costco on Plumb
Lane or in the new Fire Creek Crossing Center on Kietzke Lane extension
west of S. Virginia Street. You might want to call ahead so they'll
have copies ready. Ask for the Barbano file at the business services
desk. The Plumb Lane Office Depot can be reached at 829-2582. Kietzke
Lane's number is 823-9099.
In Sparks, copies are
available at Nevada Instant Type, 508 Victorian Avenue, 359-4835.
They're located east of Pyramid Way going toward McCarran. You can also
pick up back issues of the Tribune for 35 cents each while they last
at 10th and "C" streets in Sparks, next to the Silver Club tower. I'll
also make all columns of this now six-part series available to anyone
with e-mail download capability, but the hard copies are more fun, not
becaget Jody Lindke's killer political cartoons as a bonus.
BAR WARS. The
State Bar of Nevada must address the ethical propriety of U-system lawyer
Klasic working to prevent a duly elected future boss from becoming same.
Guess I'd better prepare another complaint.
The UNR Foundation broke
the public records law by preventing the Tribune from inspecting documents
made public by law. Appropriate legal action is under review.
FULL COURT PRESS:
Rosenberg has retained former Nevada Assembly Speaker Bill Bilyeu (R-Elko)
as his legal counsel. All I can say is...
Be well. Raise hell.
is a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 28-year Nevadan.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks
Tribune since 1988.
This column originally published 12/1/96. Copyright © 1996,
2006, 2010 Andrew Barbano