All university regents face ouster, TMCC chief quits
From the 3-9-1997 Daily Sparks Tribune / Updated 11-15-2012

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.

Chancellor Richard Jarvis vehemently denied that university officials have spent money the Board of Regents has not approved — Reno Gazette-Journal, 2-24-97

I love great fiction. "I do not accept allegations that we're inefficient," Jarvis remarked to legislative money committees while asking for a 28 percent budgetary increase. This guy is in deep denial.

Not one but two major audits have shown that the University and Community College System of Nevada is totally out of control. For presiding over the last three years of this financial fiasco, Chancellor Jarvis gets a fat new contract extension. Meanwhile, students run short of materials, classes get canceled, tuition gets jacked up and late charges increase from $25 to $250. Freshmen get hit $50 for useless orientation tours.

Audits by the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau and Coopers & Lybrand, the major accounting firm, describe some, but by no means all of the U-Boat's problems. This thing requires a state grand jury, but snowballs have better chances, you know. (For the legislative audit, call Gary Crews at (702) 687-6815. The C&L report remains available for the cost of copying at Office Depot on Plumb Lane next to Price/Costco in Reno.)

Crews took pains to point out that much of the university budget never gets reviewed. The legislature has some degree of control over only what it authorizes, just 60 percent of the action. "We estimate that expenditures totaling $235 million were excluded from the budgetary approval process in fiscal years 1995 and 1996," Crews wrote.

Revenue generating programs and the multifarious university foundations pretty much operate off the books. Hence, the U-Boat commanders try to launder as much through the foundations as possible.

UNR under Joe Crowley thinks nothing of deficit spending and unauthorized borrowing of millions. Just last year, Commander Crowley spent $12,783,522 of UNR's $55 million unrestricted endowment. At that rate, a fund which took more than 100 years to build will be gone by 2000. C&L showed Chancellor Jarvis spending $3,099,000 more than his office took in during the 1995-96 fiscal year. (See the Oct. 27, Nov. 3, Jan. 19 and 26 installments of this series.)

Now comes a little chart buried among a plethora of other documents passed out at a recent regents meeting. It shows an $11.6 million drop in operating funds from December '95 to '96. Former system treasurer Janet MacDonald says this should just not happen, given increased money from the legislature and jacked up student fees. "It means deficit spending," she told me.

Las Vegas Regent Nancy Price has demanded an explanation, so far to no avail. She has determined that the latest hemorrhage comes from Crowleyland.

Down in Gomorrah South, UNLV has taken student parking fees earmarked for a new parking garage and shunted the money to pay off a failed project to build (I'm not making this up) frat houses. The Tribune recently published the story on page one, the Reno Gazette-Journal has yet to print word one.

For more than a decade, UNR has skimmed student health service moneys to subsidize professional athletics. On Dec. 8, I reported the Crowley move to skim $1.5 million from student housing maintenance fees as a band-aid for another mismanaged program. I also broke the story of how UNR got hit with a $52,000 fine for late-paying $1.3 million in workers compensation insurance. Jarvis and Crowley are moving millions more from endowments to operations. Soon, they will have consumed all the seed corn.

I'd ask the U-Boat commanders to clarify this latest little multi-million matter, but as regular readers know, the U has blackballed me. I stand shunned, persona non grata, ordered to submit questions in writing for responses soaked in PR spin and laundered through lawyers. Sorry, guys. I don't play your corrupt game, especially after you intentionally broke the state public records law by halting Tribune access to money records.

ST. JOAN AND THE DRAGONS: Valiant Regent Nancy Price has once again sallied forth alone. She recently filed a complaint with Nevada Atty. Gen. Frankie Sue Del Papa alleging that Chancellor Jarvis, Board of Regents Chair Madison Graves II and Regent Shelley Berkley intentionally broke the Nevada open meeting law.

As the Barbwire exclusively reported last Sunday, Jarvis and the two Las Vegas regents launched a vicious personal attack against Price in the January 30 closed session scheduled to review Jarvis' performance. Things got so bad that rookie Reno Regent Howard Rosenberg stepped in to beg for calm and civility.

Nevada law (NRS 241.031) says that "a public body shall not hold a closed meeting to consider the character, alleged misconduct, professional competence, or physical or mental health of an elected member of a public body." The provision was added by the 1993 legislature after then-regent and now Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren took issue with some financial shenanigans. A closed-door censure attempt by other regents really ticked off state lawmakers, who ordered that trashing elected officials must henceforth happen in broad daylight.

Longtime U-Boat lawyer Don Klasic was present at both the Hammargren and Price private pillagings. This time, he reminded the offending officials of the new law.

The entire board, including Price, plus the chancellor could be removed from their positions if found guilty of a willful violation. After Klasic's warning, they should have stopped the inquisition. The courageous Price chose to stay inside and fight back rather than walk out, jeoparding herself the most by her own complaint.

Mrs. Price told me she thought the closed door attack was well planned.

"From things that went on inside, it was clearly prepared in advance, and that can be shown. It was a premeditated, malicious, repeated offense. They knew it was a violation. It meets every criterion of the law as a violation," Price told me. She says she has witnesses whom Berkley told of an unannounced, emergency regents meeting just before the closed session. I have spoken to one who confirms Price's statement.

After the legally questionable closed-door firefight, Berkley pulled a publicity stunt. In the presence of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Natalie Patton and UNLV Rebel Yell writer William Puchert, Berkley hurled.

     "Shame on you, Nancy," she said. "You don't give a rat's ass about higher education in Nevada. For some reason, you are trying to damage the chancellor and the system," Berkley spat.

I think that move was also calculated to draw attention away from Jarvis' record. Price agrees. It worked. Jarvis got a fat new contract despite a record any private sector CEO would be fired over.

FLASH! Popular Truckee Meadows Community College President Kenneth Wright has stepped down after serious differences with Jarvis. In a March 5 letter to the chancellor, Wright wrote "it is clear we have profound and incompatible differences between our management styles and attempt (changes) with anything but your wholehearted support and enthusiasm would simply be a recipe for failure both for me and the college." Wright asked for reassignment to a teaching post and will be temporarily replaced by John Richardson, who preceded Jarvis as chancellor.

Price criticizes Jarvis for rigging presidential evaluations by talking only to those who will support the chancellor's point of view. On a related front, Jarvis' continued censorship of press clippings to campus presidents and regents is generating new anger. (Nothing new. See the Dec. 8 Barbwire.)

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano 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 3/9/97.

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