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EDITORIAL: Oversight at Clark County and the former coroner

Updated October 25, 2021 - 10:45 am

Mistakes happen and assignments sometimes fall through the cracks. But Clark County officials have some explaining to do when it comes to the former coroner.

The Review-Journal’s Arthur Kane reported last week that John Fudenberg, who served in the county coroner’s office for 17 years — earning an appointment to the top post in 2015 before retiring in 2020 — claimed degrees from a dubious institution of higher education on his updated resume. Mr. Fudenberg, now serving as the executive director of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, listed degrees from Barkley University in San Francisco, including an MBA.

Barkley University, Mr. Kane reports, “was linked in 2015 by The New York Times to a Pakistani diploma mill, and the school now has a defunct website.” Mr. Fudenberg also hired his girlfriend’s meditation company on the taxpayer dime and apparently accepted speaking fees for speeches given while on the clock, Mr. Kane revealed.

“Any manager has to rely on the judgment/ethics of your department head,” said Jeff Wells, the assistant county manager who oversees the coroner’s office. “You can only take action on things you know about.”

It’s worth noting that Mr. Fudenberg for many years made clear that he had little concern about unnecessarily spending other people’s money. He repeatedly refused to release the results of child autopsy reports in defiance of the state’s open records laws, leading the county into a financially wasteful and failed legal fight. County taxpayers were forced to eat more than $80,000 thanks to the coroner’s intransigence.

The county’s sloppy oversight recalls the fiasco five years ago when UNLV hired as a purchasing analyst a woman who had been forced to quit a similar job at the Las Vegas Valley Water District after she became ensnared in a scandal involving $4.5 million in stolen ink-jet cartridges. University officials sputtered to explain their hiring process.

Mr. Wells said the county recently implemented more stringent background checks for employment applicants, including a fingerprint requirement. Fine. But county commissioners should be asking some tough questions of those in charge of supervising department managers and making employment decisions.

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