‘Transparency’ articles

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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School board members should be exempt from ethics law, since trustees serve 'the children,' says CCSD lawyer

Argument seeks to defend district board president, top lobbyist

LAS VEGAS — Requiring members of the Clark County School District Board of Trustees to obey Nevada’s Ethics in Government law, says CCSD’s top lawyer, could keep those members from doing their jobs.

School board President Carolyn Edwards in February was hit with a formal ethics complaint for using school district staff, resources and databases to advocate for the passage of a 2012 ballot question to raise county property taxes.

Responding to the complaint on Edwards’ behalf, Clark County School District lead attorney Carlos McDade wrote the state Ethics Commission that “The provision [of state law] cited by petitioner may actually prevent trustees from performing their statutory duty.”

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Health trust CEO, financial consultant anxious about Obamacare's effect on finances

CEO says cash-strapped trust has 2.5 years 'if we do nothing,'
speculates on trust’s future with Obamacare regulations

LAS VEGAS  —  The Teachers Health Trust’s financial situation could grow even more precarious due to fees associated with the Affordable Care Act, says CEO Peter Alpert.

“There will be fees. There will be cost increases,” said Alpert. “[The Affordable Care Act is] a subject [on which] I’ll keep the rest of my comments to myself.”

Alpert’s remarks came during a March 19 news conference where he presented THT’s updated financial report and discussed the organization’s overall financial health.

THT, the main health insurance provider for Clark County School District teachers, has had its financial viability questioned over the past two months since Nevada Journal reported that a teacher union representative told members in a Jan. 29 closed-door meeting that the trust would go “belly-up in 60 to 90 days.”

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New robo-signing brief: Misconduct by AG Masto's office could 'seriously damage public confidence' in that office

Defense to argue for case dismissal in Monday hearing; former chief
prosecutor calls conflict of interest argument 'blatantly misleading.'

BULLETIN: Nevada's 8th Judicial District Court dismisses all charges against LSI title officers.

LAS VEGAS — New evidence bearing on allegations that Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and her top deputies engaged in repeated and systemic prosecutorial misconduct to indict two Lender Processing Services employees is scheduled to go before Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court today.

Defense attorneys for the employees say photographs now submitted to the court provide “potent proof” of the falsity of sworn testimony by Masto’s former chief deputy and head criminal prosecutor in the case, John P. Kelleher — as well as the falsity of assurances that Masto’s office gave to the court.

Gary Trafford and Gerry Sheppard, two LPS title officers, were indicted by a Clark County grand jury in November 2011 on charges of so-called robo-signing “forgery,” having authorized certain LPS employees they supervised to sign the title officers’ names to legal documents.

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