EDITORIAL: New NSHE report provides Klaich cover for rewritten report

Hey, look! The Nevada System of Higher Education released a report funded by taxpayers!

Of course, this report wouldn’t have been necessary if the system had released a previous report funded by taxpayers. Or if the members of the Nevada Board of Regents were interested in addressing obvious efforts by Chancellor Dan Klaich and his staff to protect their office from outside criticism and governance reforms that would have reduced their power — and perhaps made colleges better.

The Nevada System of Higher Education paid San Francisco-based attorney Stephen Hirschfeld some $57,500 to examine Mr. Klaich’s actions, anyway. And wouldn’t you know it, the investigation found no wrongdoing by Mr. Klaich and no violations of higher education ethical standards.

If that’s the case, higher education ethical standards stink.

The story dates to 2014, when officials were considering changes to the governance of community colleges to make them more responsive and accountable. A commissioned review of NSHE supported reforming the bureaucracy. And instead of releasing that $10,000 report to lawmakers, regents and the public, Mr. Klaich had it rewritten before it finally was suppressed.

No problemo, said Mr. Hirschfeld, because Mr. Klaich and NSHE never intended to give the report to an interim legislative committee that was considering changes to higher education governance. “All of the witnesses I spoke to credibly said that neither Klaich nor anyone else ever told them that there was any intention to distribute the … report to Committee,” Mr. Hirschfeld wrote.

He should have checked Mr. Klaich’s email. Review-Journal reporter Bethany Barnes did, thanks to the state’s public records law. And in one of those emails, dated June 3, 2014, Mr. Klaich told staff the authors of the report he ordered rewritten “know the final committee meeting is June 17 and we need it (the rewrite) in time for that meeting.” Denied access to that report, the legislative committee decided against more local control of community colleges and allowed regents and Mr. Klaich to keep oversight of them.

During a Tuesday meeting with the Review-Journal editorial board — the day after Mr. Hirschfeld’s report was released — Mr. Klaich, Regent Michael Wixom and Board of Regents Chairman Rick Trachok said they wouldn’t talk about the investigation before next week’s board meeting. To better get their stories straight?

Regents didn’t need to commission a report to know what Mr. Klaich did was wrong. That they did so says they had no problem with what Mr. Klaich did, but they wanted to give themselves political cover. One complete waste of money has led to another complete waste of money. And taxpayers have every right to be outraged.

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