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State unemployment insurance official fired following RJ investigation

Updated August 16, 2023 - 4:10 pm

A senior official at the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation was fired from her position several days before a Las Vegas Review-Journal story detailing a backlog in the department was published.

Former Employment Security Division Administrator Lynda Parven was let go on Friday, she told the Review-Journal on Wednesday. Parven oversaw a division of the state agency primarily responsible for unemployment insurance and workforce development.

A spokeswoman for the agency said it cannot comment on personnel matters and declined to further detail the circumstances leading up to Parven’s departure.

In a Wednesday news release, DETR said it had appointed Kristine Nelson as the new division administrator. Nelson has been with the department in multiple positions since 2014, including chief operating officer/legislative liaison, Employment Security Division (ESD) program chief, and deputy and chief financial officer.

“Kristine Nelson has extensive knowledge of ESD’s finances, and we are happy to see her lead the division,” Christopher Sewell, DETR’s director, said in the release. “She has been with DETR for the past nine years and has proven expertise to take on this new role.”

DETR has been working through several backlogs related to the massive number of claims filed during the pandemic. At one point, Nevada had the worst unemployment in the nation at 30.6 percent in April 2020. Last year, the state determined it paid too much in unemployment benefits during the pandemic, and more than half of the overpayments weren’t attributed to fraud.

The agency started sending out notices late last year to more than 150,000 Nevada residents asking for the money back. As of Aug. 10, the agency has recovered $21.5 million in overpayments from a pandemic-related program for self-employed workers and roughly $745.3 million in traditional unemployment insurance, it said.

This wave of overpayment notices — part of the attempt to retrieve the errant money — has fueled a backlog of incomplete appeals, with more than 26,000 claims still awaiting hearings and final decisions.

The Review-Journal asked Sewell questions about the agency’s appeals backlog during a Thursday interview. The news story was published online Wednesday.

Parven said the agency was “not very forthcoming” when she was terminated. She said they attributed it to a workforce bill that did not pass during the 2023 legislative session, but she said she wasn’t asked to testify about it or write it. She said the backlogs were also an issue, but the adjudication backlog – or the first step in determining whether a claimant is eligible for benefits – was nearly clear this month.

“There was some mention of the backlog, but I inherited the backlog,” she said.

Parven had been the division’s administrator since November 2020, according to her LinkedIn. Before that, she was a deputy administrator focused on the workforce development team.

In an email provided to the Review-Journal, Parven emailed the statewide Employment Security Division on Friday evening: “You may be told I resigned. That is not true.”

Parven said the backlog of cases has been a challenge to get through because it’s hard to find interested, qualified candidates.

“The appeals backlog is a problem and it’s being worked on as quickly as it can be,” Parven said. “But when you put out recruitment and you get one or two people applying, it’s hard.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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