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.
Last week, the UNR athletic department unveiled a new, big time fundraiser: a southwest Reno golf course, a joint venture between a private developer and the university-adjunct Wolf Club, a non-profit foundation.
Ault says there's no liability for the school, and the project stands to generate $200,000 to $500,000 a year for Wolf Pack athletics. He makes a convincing case and potential critics have not yet reviewed the matter.
I'll give Ault credit for running his department better than most of the academic weasels I've dealt with lately. I called the athletic department and asked the guy who answered the phone to direct me to someone who could fill me in on the golf course project. The guy on the phone gulped and said "is this Andy?"
My God, the gag order from the chancellor has spread, I thought (see below). They've been taught to recognize my retro-talk radio voice before I even give my name.
Apparently, Chris Ault had not gotten the message. While his minions were reluctant to say word one, he took my call and quickly filled me in on the golf course project from his perspective. Chris was upbeat, self-effacing and charming. Same old Chris, totally unintimidated by gag orders from the chancellor or one writer from a small newspaper.
I asked him if the regents had signed off on the $6 million project. He said that he brought the chairman of the board, Madison Graves II, to the site and showed him the idea. Graves is a Las Vegas developer who should understand big building projects. He apparently gave Ault the impression he would inform his 10 colleagues.
"Chris, you shouldn't assume that those guys talk to each other," I advised. Indeed, some of the regents are totally in the dark about the Wolf Run golf and checkered pants club. Chris assured me that the Wolf Club's private partner is not developing condos on the back nine.
Because of Coach Ault, for the first time this year, I've had a civil, on-the-record conversation with a high UNR official not overtly trying to lie to me. Chancellor Jarvis could learn a public relations play or two from the Little General.
I'll wait to hurl any barbs at the project, if any. I see a good environmental reason for the idea. With all due respect to wiseman George Carlin, who considers golf an elitist sport for rich white guys (he's right, as usual), I see a benefit to the Truckee Meadows. If you believe in preserving open space, support golf courses. The south Reno Double Diamond, Damonte and Quilici ranches are being paved over. Only the grace of God and a few firebrands saved Rancho San Rafael from asphalt, a battle which apparently will never end.
At the very minimum, Wolf Run will keep 159 acres of open space open, an environmental argument for white guys in weird pantaloons.
ETHIX COMMISSION UPDATE: My citizen motion to join Sparks Regent James Eardley to the university system's complaint against Regent-elect Howard Rosenberg is under consideration and has been assigned a separate case number. I have been notified that the commission will meet to decide whether it has jurisdiction. It will do the same on my request to evaluate the ethics and legality of Mrs. Richard Jarvis holding a vice-presidency in the university system, wherein her husband is the boss of her boss.
My motives are simple. If Howard Rosenberg is going to hang, he should not hang alone. The same law Chancellor Jarvis, system attorney Don Klasic and board of regents chair Graves Deux are using against Rosenberg also applies to Eardley.
Rosenberg and Eardley's only viable strategy lies in knocking down the law in federal court as unconsitutionally overbroad. Jarvis and Co. are hanging their collective pointed hat on a statute intended to regulate the relationship between regents and people selling stuff to the U. However, the law reads "any contract." And therein lies its fatal flaw.
Rosenberg has a contract to teach at UNR. Eardley has a contract with the state providing for his retirement income as a former community college president. On its face, the law would seem to mandate that Rosenberg can't teach and Eardley can't collect. It's really much worse. A contract means somebody has given up a legal detriment for a legal benefit.
You may not realize it, but you yourself enter into many contracts every day. You buy a ticket to go see Star Trek. That's a contract. You pay Luther Mack a buck for a Big Mac. That's a contract.
Regent Eardley donates to the Wolf Club and gets two basketball tickets as part of the deal - illegal according to Klasic, Jarvis and Graves. Regent Rosenberg buys a faculty parking permit, a contract allowing him to park in certain places for so much money. Illegal under the Klasic-Jarvis interpretation of the law. Listen to them, and neither gentleman could order a sandwich in the cafeteria.
To hear the bellowing brahmins of academia tell it, President Joe Crowley cutting a paycheck to Prof. Rosenberg could consitute a double felony. What sound-byte journalism drivel.
It all comes back to what's the big deal about Rosenberg? He'll be only one of 11 regents. If the U was concerned about illegally paying regents, they should have questioned the ethics of Eardley's money a decade ago. Something much more is afoot. They don't want an advocate of the students on the ivory tower board. He might ask embarrassing questions, for God's sake. We can't have that.
The university system operates in a climate of fear. I have received dozens of communications from faculty, staff and former employees, all of them afraid to speak out. They paint a picture of cronyism, discrimination and profligate spending to the detriment of students, who are increasingly shaken down for more and more money to attend a very expensive freshwater college (to steal H.L. Mencken's term).
I've got news for you guys: your cookie jar is crumbling. Preventing Rosenberg from serving won't keep Humpty Dumpty from going over the wall.
BRUSHING ASIDE DEMOCRACY -- Sagebrush, the UNR student newspaper under threat of losing its independence from a vengeful administration, recently reinforced the apathy of young people. "What's the point of an election?" wrote editor John L. Curtis. "Who cares what the people want? Who cares who the students want as their regent? As long as people have money, they will obtain their own justice - and their own regent...And while spitting in the face of a democratic system in which the people have voiced their opinion, someone will accept Howard Rosenberg's regent position...If you disagree with the actions taking place, make your voice known. The Sagebrush encourages you to write letters expressing your disapproval (or approval) - write to us, the Reno Gazette-Journal, and the state legislature," Curtis exhorted.
The Sagebrush newsman knew he need not include the Tribune or the Reno News & Review, the only points of light in the media statewide where this budding scandal is concerned. This newspaper began reporting on the financial improprieties at the U more than three years ago, but it took the attempt to void Rosenberg's election to get people focused.
"Just to let you know," Sagebrush editor Curtis concluded, "Rosenberg was outraged with the (tuition) late fee increase (from a maximum of $25 to $250) and has already begun his job as a regent, representing student interests with the passion we knew he would exhibit."
Las Vegas needs some attention on this. Write the Las Vegas Review-Journal at P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125-0070; fax (702) 383-4676. The Las Vegas Sun's address is 800 S. Valley View Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89107; fax (702) 383-7264. You can e-mail the Sun in care of Tribune alumnus Bryan Allison.
If you are interested in helping form a citizens committee to preserve Rosenberg's election and investigate the financial mismanagement of university system, write P.O. Box 10034, Reno, NV 89510. You may also e-mail me.
ENVIRONMENTAL DEPT., PART DEUX: Since I began writing for this paper, I've killed a lot of pulpwood trees above and beyond the call of duty. When the occasion warranted, I've made copies of material available for the cost of reproduction. The public interest in the drolleries of government-based scandal has proven little short of amazing. This column's all-time bestseller was ghostwritten by Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
In 1990, they introduced the infamous H. R. 4079/ S. 2255. The 100-page monster would have declared a state of national emergency in the names of the wars on crime and drugs. (Desert Storm was still a year away.) In conjunction with executive emergency powers, the bill would have facilitated a five-year suspension of the Constitution, establishment of concentration camps and elimination of filing for writs of habeas corpus. Slave labor would have moved north of the border a little faster than it's been coming anyway.
In this column and on my radio show, I put out the word. The house bill room in Washington DC ran out in a week, with reprints a month away. I made a copy available to the public for two bucks. Kinko's moved almost 500 in 30 days to Nevadans concerned enough to spend money to spread a warning as to what kind of dictatorship Gingrich and Gramm represented. They nonetheless came to power in 1994. Go figure.
Last year, I made reprints of the Washoe County Grand Jury report on the giveaway of our county hospital available for about two bucks at Office Depot. At the courthouse, citizens were forced to shell out an outrageous $44 for a public document.
Several hundred copies were purchased at Office Depot by taxpayers angry that a combination of clever lies and government corruption could surgically remove a $120 million public asset from this community and privatize it. The pirate ship now called Washoe Health System has never returned a penny to the public in the savings it promised in 1985. They have invested their tremendous profits into proliferating their empire. Washoe Medical Center and the multifarious shells under which the octopus keeps its peas present a continuing insult to the community every time you drive down the street and see one of their buildings - or view an ooey-gooey TV spot extolling their virtue. The grand jury report (still available at Office Depot next to Costco) ranks number two behind Newt on the all time Barbwire bestseller list.
The Rosenberg affair shows all the signs of taking over first place. Out for only two weeks, reprints of this column have kept copy machines hot at three commercial locations and heaven knows how many others. One guy called and asked if I would mind if he mailed a set to every paper in the state.
When reporters in Las Vegas and Elko started asking embarrassing questions of university regents, Chancellor Richard Jarvis finally stopped witholding the columns from his regular mailings to his bosses. He invented a lie from whole cloth to cover his exalted ass. In a letter I printed last week, he told the regents "enclosed are (sic) a set of articles published recently by a Mr. Andrew Barbano in the Sparks Tribune. They represent the worst collection of fabrications, cheap shots and smears that I have come across in my career in higher education." Nice to know I've made the rogues gallery. As the immortal Travus T. Hipp used to day, sometimes cheap shots are the only shots you get.
Mr. Jarvis further asserted that "there were originally supposed to be five articles and, as the main targets appeared to be Joe Crowley and me, I wanted to wait until we could compile the full series." Untrue. Nobody, not even me, who fires the cheap shots, knows how long this series will run. Jarvis apparently got heat from regents angry at being blindsided by reporters. He thus invented an excuse for treating the elected regents as mushrooms. (Nine of the 11 of reside outside of Sparks-Reno.)
This concoction comes from the same guy responsible for blatantly breaking the public records law by refusing this writer and the Tribune access to legislatively mandated public documents. In a letter to the editor, Mr. Jarvis did not refute any of the charges I've made. He just painted everything I've written as a lie. A guy with three degrees in geography from Cambridge should be able to master the terrain a little better than that. After all, his fat contract will soon come up for renewal.
During a decade of lampooning poltroons perverting public power, I've eaten my share of crow. I make mistakes, and will make more. I invite the university brahmins to show me where I'm wrong. You can't do that by refusing legal access to public documents involving millions upon millions of public money. You can't do that by ordering your minions not to talk to me, by insisting that all questions be submitted in writing and only giving press release responses.
If a vote were taken as to who most probably is hiding something, I've got a hunch I know who'd win.
BACK TO THE FOREST OF TREMBLING TREES: For merely the cost of copying, you can afford to send reprints of this series to all your friends and enemies alike just in time for the holidays. Ask for the Barbano file at the business services desk of either Reno Office Depot location, next to Costco on Plumb Lane or in the new Fire Creek Crossing on Kietzke Lane extension west of S. Virginia Street. I suggest calling ahead. The Plumb Lane number is 829-2582. Kietzke Lane's is 823-9099.
In Sparks, copies are available at Nevada Instant Type, 508 Victorian Avenue, east of Pyramid Way going toward McCarran; call 359-4835. I'll e-mail the entire eight-part series to anyone with download capability, but the hard copies are more fun because you get Jody Lindke's hilarious political cartoons as a bonus. For any member of the board of regents, I'll provide copies free so they need not wait for Mr. Jarvis to decide when I've stopped writing on this splendid little scandal.
Be well. Raise hell.
Copyright © 1982, 1996, 2006, 2010 Andrew Barbano
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