A panel of the state Ethics Commission last week outlined consequences for two higher education regents after complaints were filed alleging they violated the state’s ethics laws.
The commission received the complaints in June and investigated Nevada System of Higher Education board chair Cathy McAdoo and Patrick Carter, who was vice-chair at the time.
Documents posted on the commission’s website don’t include details about why regents were being investigated. But they say “credible evidence” exists for the commission to render an opinion related to a section of law about disclosing conflicts of interest and abstaining from voting.
But instead of issuing an opinion, the commission said the regents’ “conduct may be appropriately addressed through corrective action under the terms and conditions of a deferral agreement instead of referring these allegations to the Commission for further proceedings at this time.”
Those conditions: complying with ethics laws for one year, receiving an admonishment from the commission and writing a letter to the interim chancellor and board encouraging them to create an arrangement with the commission to provide technical assistance in strengthening the system’s ethics policy and enforcing policy violations not covered by state ethics law.
McAdoo wasn’t immediately available to comment Monday.
McAdoo and Carter, whose districts both include portions of Clark County, have been on the board since 2017. They didn’t seek reelection, so their terms conclude at the end of this year.
Ross Armstrong, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics, said Monday the cases are still pending, noting if a deferral agreement isn’t reached, the matter will be referred to the commission for further proceedings.
The commission, Armstrong said, still has jurisdiction over individuals even upon them leaving their elected positions.
There’s a two-year statute of limitations, he added.
The panel dismissed allegations against McAdoo related to two other sections of the ethics law, which relate to a public officer using their position to secure “unwarranted privileges” and using government time or property for significant personal benefit.
McAdoo and Carter were named in then-Chancellor Melody Rose’s sex-based hostile work environment complaint filed in October 2021. Rose claimed she experienced “abusive treatment” at their hands.
McAdoo and Carter stepped down from their leadership roles while a third-party investigation was underway, but remained on the board and were later restored as chair and vice chair once the investigation concluded.
The investigation found insufficient evidence to substantiate Rose’s claims, but also found the circumstances she referenced were an inappropriate professional environment and that an ethical code of conduct for regents was likely violated in several instances.
Several business and labor organizations issued a letter to the Commission on Ethics calling for an investigation into McAdoo and Carter.
In February, the board voted 9-3 to conclude the investigation into Rose’s complaint.
During that meeting, an higher education system attorney recommended that the seven regents who were named and investigated in Rose’s complaint should disclose that fact and abstain from voting, but none of them did.
Rose resigned in April and accepted $610,000 in severance pay.