A Las Vegas lawyer who applied for a high-paying Nevada System of Higher Education position alleges that his application was not “legally considered” and calls on the Board of Regents to stop the search process.
James Dean Leavitt – who served on the NSHE board for 12 years, including as chairman of the board – applied over the summer for the post of chief of staff and lawyer special council, but was rejected.
His attorney, Christian Gabroy, sent a seven-page letter dated Oct. 14 to some NSHE officials demanding that the research process be ‘relaunched’ and that a meeting originally scheduled for Thursday in which the finalists for the post could have been interviewed or canceled. The meeting was listed on the NSHE website on Tuesday as “postponed.”
Among those who received the complaint were Chief General Counsel Joe Reynolds, Chancellor Melody Rose, Director of Human Resources Sherry Olson, Acting Chief of Staff Keri Nikolajewski, Chairman of the Board Cathy McAdoo and Vice President of the board and chairman of the research committee Patrick Carter.
Leavitt, 59, alleged in the letter that Nikolajewski determined he did not meet the minimum qualifications for the post “in order to benefit his preferred candidate.”
He also alleged “unreasonable, unprofessional and unlawful conduct” by Nikolajewski, Olson, McAddo and Carter. He said they should be excluded if a new job search is started as requested “due to the belief of bias and prejudice against Mr Leavitt and possibly others who have likely been excluded from wrong of the past and current research process “.
The advertisement for the position, which offers a starting salary of $ 180,000 to $ 220,000, lists minimum qualifications as a Juris Doctor degree, current membership in the Nevada Bar, and at least five years of “experience. progressive directly applicable to the post ”. Leavitt meets all three criteria, Gabroy said.
“Inexplicable and highly suspect”
“It is inexplicable and highly suspect that Mr Leavitt with 17 years of higher education experience and 29 years of legal experience was determined to be not minimally qualified, while others with none or no experience minimum higher education were apparently advanced, “the lawyer wrote.
In an interview on Tuesday, Gabroy also said he and his client still had not received a valid reason from the system as to why he did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job. He added that the best candidate should be selected for the job, not someone’s best friend.
An NSHE spokesperson declined to comment on Tuesday.
Carter, the head of the search committee, said Tuesday that it would be inappropriate to comment on active research.
The search for a new chief of staff and special advocate was already in limbo after the job search committee voted 5-1 on August 16 to ‘fail’ the current process to widen the pool of candidates. Regent Jason Geddes opposed the move, calling it unnecessary.
Regent John Moran, who is also a lawyer, raised concerns at a subsequent meeting on September 30 whether the committee violated the state’s open meetings law by failing to provide public notice adequate. NSHE Deputy General Counsel Tina Russom said she did not believe this to be the case.
The first search led to 4 finalists
The position was originally published in early July and was open until July 30, Olson, the system’s director of human resources, told the search committee. NSHE had 27 applicants for the post and of these 11 met the minimum qualifications, six were selected as semi-finalists and four were deemed finalists by the search committee.
Leavitt’s allegations are the latest accusing board members of improper conduct this month.
Chancellor Rose accused McAdoo and Carter in an October 4 memo of creating a hostile work environment. Board executives announced last week that an independent third party, which they did not identify, would investigate the charges, but did not comment on the substance of the note.
Among other things, Rose’s 28-page memo referred to warnings she had received prior to taking over as chancellor about an “Old Boys Club” environment at NSHE and her requests for help in changing the culture.
The person who is ultimately hired as chief of staff and special counsel to the board will replace Dean Gould, who retired from NSHE in December 2020. He had come under heavy criticism prior to his departure after telling a regent at an August 2020 meeting to stop with her “talking child”.