‘Transparency’ articles

CCSD has spent $2.1 million on
outside legal counsel since 2011

Nothing comes before the school board, but CCSD’s legal department is well over budget

LAS VEGAS — The Clark County School District Office of General Counsel has an annual budget exceeding $3 million and a legal team of 10 attorneys, nine secretarial and clerical staff, plus one administrator.

Part of that $3 million each year is $500,000 allocated for the hiring of additional, outside attorneys.

Nevertheless, in the last three school years the office has exceeded its outside-counsel budget and has paid out over $2.1 million to 10 private law firms. Of that, over $1.2 million went to two firms — Greenberg-Traurig, and Lewis and Roca (now Lewis Roca Rothgerber), according to CCSD records reviewed by Nevada Journal.

For this school year, the CCSD legal office is some $179,000 over its legal services budget.

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Firm auditing NVPERS pays $35 million settlement for not detecting 20-year-long Illinois embezzlement

City comptroller stole nearly $54 million from city, bought ranch, 400 horses

LAS VEGAS — The annual independent audit of the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System’s financials will be conducted by a firm that recently agreed to pay a city in Illinois $35 million after it failed to notice that the city’s comptroller had embezzled nearly $54 million from taxpayers over the 20 years during which the firm was conducting independent audits.

In February, Nevada’s Public Employees’ Retirement Board voted unanimously to award a $113,500 contract to CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP, to audit the financials of the state Public Employees’ Retirement System, Legislative Retirement System and Judicial Retirement System for the current fiscal year.

The vote came just months after CliftonLarsonAllen settled a civil lawsuit with the city of Dixon, Illinois. The suit was over the firm’s acknowledged failure to notice that a high-ranking city official had been stealing from city coffers for years, forcing the small municipality to cut public services and lay-off employees.

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Dad told seeing state’s records
on his kids will cost him $10 grand+

Over 800 data points now collected on each Nevada public, charter school student

LAS VEGAS — Would you like to see the information the State of Nevada is keeping on your child?

You may have to take out a loan.

The State Department of Education recently notified one Washoe County parent it would cost him more than $10,000.

When John Eppolito, a parent of four, asked to view the information the state is warehousing on his children, he was informed that "the Department’s Director of Information Technology… has estimated that the cost will be approximately $10,194."

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Curious about compensation of top Southern Nevada government officials?

LAS VEGAS — The deeper meaning of data on TransparentNevada, the searchable database of government employee salaries provided by NPRI as a public service, is going to become more accessible, according to Victor Joecks, the Institute’s executive vice president.

In the seven years of the website’s existence, said Joecks, TransparentNevada.com has given the public unprecedented access to government compensation information, and, along the way, exposed compensation packages inflated by excessive overtime, sick leave/vacation sell backs and salary and benefit packages far out of line with the private sector.

Now, starting with the four biggest Southern Nevada government entities, NPRI is providing the public with different ways to examine and compare government compensation spending.  

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The actual history of Nevada’s ban
on state gifts to private companies

It originated, not in a fear of railroads, but of politicians and crony capitalism

LAS VEGAS — It’s long been agreed in Nevada that the state constitution’s prohibition against state subsidies to private business means just what it says:

The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.

Moreover, Nevada voters have made their own view emphatically clear: Three times — in 1992, 1996 and 2000 — they’ve rejected lawmaker-sponsored ballot measures to change the state constitution and allow such subsidies.

But have Silver State lawmakers and the Sandoval administration now found a successful end-run around the clearly expressed will of the voters?

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Nevada's Catalyst Fund: Millions
pledged without signed contracts

What gives? Corporate subsidy program rife with confusion, lack of procedures

LAS VEGAS — With much ado and fanfare, Nevada public officials have aggressively touted subsidies from the state’s $10 million Catalyst Fund incentive program to numerous companies that say they will expand in or relocate to Nevada.

Despite the publicity, however, signed agreements for nearly $7.1 million in committed Catalyst Fund monies do not yet exist and exactly how the Catalyst Fund money flows remains hidden from public view.

The 2011 Nevada Legislature created the Fund as a discretionary grant program to subsidize private businesses that expand in or relocate to Nevada. It is administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, known as “GOED.”

From March to September 2013, the GOED board — chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval, with members including Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, Secretary of State Ross Miller and others —designated nine private companies to receive nearly $5.7 million in state Catalyst Fund grants. Through Jan. 28, 2014, officials insisted to Nevada Journal that signed agreements for those nine awards did not exist. Only when faced with this publication’s deadline did GOED produce one signed agreement for $200,000.

Late in 2013, GOED approved two more subsidy packages totaling more than $1.6 million. Again, no signed agreements exist.

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CCSD Board to weigh authorizing hiring
for which it’s already receiving bills

Taxpayers to foot the bill for board president’s top-of-the line legal defense?

LAS VEGAS — Four months ago, the Clark County School District hired state Sen. Mark Hutchison to defend its school board president, Carolyn Edwards, before the state ethics commission.

CCSD General Counsel Carlos McDade on July 24 “acknowledged and agreed to” terms proposed by Hutchison — a contract specifying hourly rates of $330 for himself and $175 for an assisting attorney.

Since then, the school district has amassed over $21,000 in legal fees and costs with the Hutchison & Steffen law firm.

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Fox reporter's lawyers seek
to keep her sources secret

Reporter goes to top NY court to protect sources on Colorado theater shooting

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's highest court will decide whether state law protects a Fox News reporter from revealing confidential sources from a story about James Holmes, who's accused of killing 12 people in a suburban Denver movie theater last year.

Holmes' lawyers want Jana Winter, who works at New York-based Fox News, brought to a Colorado courtroom to name two law officers who told her Holmes had mailed a notebook depicting violence to a psychiatrist. They argue the sources violated a gag order, may have later lied under oath about that and won't be credible as trial witnesses.

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Ethics commission in settlement
talks with CCSD’s Edwards

Slap on wrist possible, despite district trustees’ other ethics issues

LAS VEGAS — Two key witnesses expected earlier to testify in the ethics investigation of Clark County School District Board President Carolyn Edwards have been told by the Nevada Ethics Commission that they don’t need to.

The reason? According to the commission’s executive director, their testimony is no longer needed, since Edwards is planning to stipulate to the charges against her.

She thus joins the other recent CCSD subject of ethics complaints, district lobbyist Joyce Haldeman, already in settlement talks with the ethics panel.

Both witnesses tell Nevada Journal that ethics officials informed them, via email, that the scheduled Nov. 20 evidentiary hearing in this matter had been canceled.

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Obama DOJ seizure of AP records
was 'blatant' Constitutional violation

U.S. government also intimidating news sources, says AP CEO

DENVER (AP) — Governments that try to force citizens to decide between a free press and national security create a "false choice" that weakens democracy, and journalists must fight increasing government overreach that has had a chilling effect on efforts to hold leaders accountable, the president and CEO of The Associated Press said.

Gary Pruitt told the 69th General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association on Saturday that the U.S. Justice Department's secret seizure of records of thousands of telephone calls to and from AP reporters in 2012 is one of the most blatant violations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution the 167-year-old news cooperative has ever encountered.

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