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Lying on résumés to make yourself look good can get ugly pretty fast

Lying on your résumé seems like one of the stupidest things anyone can do, because it’s pretty easy to check out. Those who pad the facts assume no one will check. Some veterans who lie about their military history assume that. So do academics. And, most stupidly, so do political candidates.

Everyone has enemies and, if your foes are obsessive enough, they check out every claim you make on paper, looking for that gotcha they can throw in your face by telling the news media.

Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta just confessed she inflated her academic credentials, but insisted it was unintentional. On her 2006 campaign Web site, Saitta said she was an “associate professor” in UNLV’s political science department. Actually, she was a part-time instructor who taught one class, the Review-Journal’s Sean Whaley reported Tuesday.

Many of her foes won’t believe her explanation: that students called her professor when she taught. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt, although someone who has gone through a university and law school should be more savvy about academic titles.

Every time stories about building issues arise, reporters and columnists hear from people who don’t like Clark County Director of Development Services Ron Lynn, who inflated his academic credentials in a trade magazine article he wrote in 1998. In Building Standards, a publication for the International Conference of Building Officials (now the International Code Council), Lynn wrote he obtained a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering and a master’s in geochemistry. He didn’t.

When it was exposed by the Review-Journal in 2001, Lynn was the building department’s assistant director and up for a job as director. Thom Reilly, county manager at the time, pulled his recommendation for Lynn’s promotion.

Lynn’s defense then about puffing himself up to his peers: “I was wrong, and I wish it had never occurred. I allowed a misrepresentation to be put into print, but I never applied for a job with a misrepresentation and I have never obtained any position through a misrepresentation.”

Despite the lies, Lynn in June got the director’s job with the support of County Manager Virginia Valentine, who said he was the best-qualified candidate. Commissioners approved it unanimously, although Rory Reid was absent. The résumé issue didn’t come up. The International Code Council didn’t hold it against him either; he was just elected secretary-treasurer.

The whopper of résumé liars was Jerry Airola, a 2006 candidate for Clark County sheriff. In a profile published in 2003, he told the Review-Journal he had a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s in chemical engineering. Impressive, if only it were true.

He also massively exaggerated his law enforcement experience. Before the election, it was all exposed for what it was: big fat fabrications.

Once you start a lie, it’s hard to stop.

Marilee Jones was dean of admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, until last spring. Turned out that 28 years earlier, when she was applying for a job at MIT as an administrative assistant in admissions (a job that didn’t require any degree whatsoever), Jones said she had degrees from two colleges in New York. She worked up to dean of admissions and, sure enough, someone who doubtlessly didn’t like one of her decisions checked and ratted her out.

A Princeton history professor was quoted in Atlantic Magazine on a story about presidential lies on which the public has to make judgments.

“What the public has to judge is whether (presidents) are lying for the good of the country — or for their own good,” Sean Wilentz told journalist Carl Cannon.

The stakes are higher at the presidential level, but the question remains just as valid when we learn someone at the local level has lied on a résumé. It’s always for their own good. You can never argue that it was done for some greater good, like when President Franklin Roosevelt concealed his ill health during World War II, which arguably was for the country’s benefit.

Nancy Saitta’s inadvertent fib really didn’t improve her résumé all that much, giving credence to the argument it was a mistake. But Ron Lynn, Jerry Airola and Marilee Jones all lied for their own good, to make themselves appear smarter.

How dumb is that?

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275.

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