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Costly attorney retained to review chancellor’s handling of report

The Nevada System of Higher Education has hired an outside consultant at up to $595 an hour to spend weeks investigating whether Chancellor Dan Klaich mishandled an outside consultant€™s’ report.

Board of Regents Chairman Rick Trachok hired labor attorney Stephen Hirschfeld whose firm, Hirschfeld Kraemer, is based in San Francisco and has an office in Reno.

The investigation follows a Review-Journal article on Klaich commissioning an out-of-state consultant to review the College of Southern Nevada and to recommend a way for his office to continue governing the state’€˜s four community colleges. But emails among Klaich, the consultants and other state higher education officials, obtained through the state’s public record law, show the chancellor didn’t like the consultant’s criticism of his operation and demanded a rewrite.

Ultimately, the report never was shown to state lawmakers, as Klaich said was the initial plan.

Trachok tasked the attorney with conducting an independent investigation that will “€œlet the Regents know whether the actions taken violated any ethical or governance standards in higher education in Nevada,”€ according to a letter of agreement, obtained through the state’€™s public records law. The law firm will review documents, conduct interviews and then write a report that will be ready in time for the regents meeting on Sept. 10 and 11.

Hirschfeld estimates it will take four to six weeks to do the investigation.

The agreement letter, dated July 15, states that another document would be provided Monday with an estimate on the number of hours the investigation will take. That document was not provided to the paper.

Political pundit Jon Ralston wrote in a post on Wednesday that Trachok told him Hirschfeld agreed to cap his fee at $50,000.

On Monday, Trachok said on the PBS show “Ralston Live” that the investigator he had hired had no connection to Nevada.

But the letterhead for the firm used in the agreement lists an office in Reno in addition to its office in San Francisco and an office in Santa Monica, Calif.

Trachok has ties to San Francisco. He is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, according to the school’€™s records.

Trachok did not respond to a Review-Journal email Wednesday asking how he selected the firm. Trachok said previously he would pick the consultant with input from Vice Chairman Regent Michael Wixom and Scott Wasserman, chief of staff and special counsel to the Board of Regents.

Klaich has been at the center of multiple controversies over the past several months, causing legislators, faculty and students to question his leadership and grasp of the basic principles of higher education.

According to Hirschfeld Kraemer’€™s website the firm represents more than 100 colleges and universities.

“€œWe regularly oversee and conduct independent investigations involving allegations of faculty, staff and student misconduct. We routinely provide legal training to college and university administrators on a wide variety of legal issues involving employment law and student affairs,”€ the website says.

The website says Hirschfeld has overseen hundreds of investigations into employee misconduct and done extensive work defending employers and teaching “€œclient’€™s executives, managers, and supervisors how to make sound human resource decisions, while at the same time minimizing wrongful termination, discrimination, and sexual harassment claims.”

Contact Bethany Barnes at bbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes.

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