- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada higher education leaders opted Thursday not to discipline Chancellor Dan Klaich over accusations that he whitewashed an outside consultant’s report - a decision they arrived at after an investigator cleared Klaich of wrongdoing and top-ranking elected officials came to his defense.

The Nevada Board of Regents voted to accept the conclusions of hired investigator and labor attorney Stephen Hirschfeld, who said he didn’t believe Klaich violated ethical standards when he requested a consultant make changes to a draft report about community college governance.

The exchanges were documented in emails obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal through a public records request.

“This situation could’ve been handled differently,” Klaich said Thursday at the meeting in Reno, vowing to be “more disciplined, more professional” in his email correspondence.

He also expressed regret that “a shadow was cast” over the process of restructuring the state’s community college system.

The controversy stems from a report that Nevada System of Higher Education officials commissioned last year for $10,000 while state lawmakers considered a restructuring. Emails show Klaich was troubled by the first draft of the report and thought it was overly negative, so he asked the authors - the National Center for Higher Education Management - to rework it.

The report was finalized after the lawmakers concluded their work and was ultimately not presented to the legislative committee, although Klaich said the detailed document was useful in implementing the suggestions lawmakers made.

After the report and emails came to light, regents hired Hirschfeld to investigate whether Klaich acted inappropriately by not widely distributing the report and by requesting changes.

Hirschfeld came up with an 11-page report, released Aug. 31, that concluded Klaich did not improperly pressure report authors to change their work. He said the edited final draft maintained the same recommendations as the first, and he thought the $10,000 fee was appropriate.

Hirschfeld’s investigation has cost the system $57,500, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

During discussions Thursday, regents suggested that board members get more involved in decisions about commissioning reports. Regent Trevor Hayes said Nevada System of Higher Education officials were too thin-skinned and had overreacted to the tone of the initial draft.

“We need to change the culture and embrace criticism rather than be so insulted,” Hayes said.

The board - and a litany of powerful Nevada business and political officials - were overwhelmingly positive toward Klaich. Gov. Brian Sandoval submitted a letter saying Klaich performed his work admirably, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote that he was “proud to call Dan Klaich my friend.”

Regent James Dean Leavitt declared, “The chancellor is guilty - of caring too much.”

Even Klaich’s wife of 42 years spoke at the meeting, testifying about her husband’s work ethic and telling him she loved him.

Regent Mark Doubrava suggested the board needed to reconsider how much power it delegates to the chancellor, and it should be more forthcoming about its work with consultants. “The taxpayers are watching us, so with those consultant reports, there has to be more transparency,” he said.

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