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September 1, 2014

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Rogers signs agreement to end Remington lawsuit

Interim Chancellor Jim Rogers gave up his quest on Monday to get a majority of the Board of Regents to approve a settlement for demoted CCSN president Ron Remington.

Instead, Rogers is using a legal opinion that he says gives him the authority to sign the $395,000 settlement himself.

"I had the authority to do it and I did it," Rogers said, armed with a legal opinion from Tom Ray and Brooke Nielsen, two of the University and Community College System of Nevada's lawyers.

Rogers' signature brings the nine-month conflict between the Community College of Southern Nevada president and the Board of Regents to an end, but may have inflamed already tense relations between him and some of the regents who had refused to sign Remington's settlement proposal.

The board has been split 7-6 over the decision to demote Remington and his lobbyist John Cummings since the Nov. 17 and 20 closed sessions where the votes were taken, regents on both sides have said. After months of negotiations, Rogers persuaded 11 regents privately to approve Cummings' settlement, but could not get the original seven who demoted Remington to go along with the large cash payment his settlement included, several regents said.

So Rogers said he took the matter into his own hands.

"I just can't keep going over things forever," Rogers said. "And because it was my judgment that I had the authority to do that ... I did it for the best interest of the university.

"There's not a power on earth that can make them (the regents) do anything they don't want to do," Rogers added.

Ray and Nielsen both agreed that the chancellor, as the higher education system's chief executive officer and treasurer, had the legal authority to sign contract negotiations on behalf of the system.

Board policy gives the chancellor the ability to handle all contracts unless authority has been expressly retained by the Board of Regents or debated elsewhere, the attorneys said in their opinion, and both attorneys said the settlement agreement counted as a contract.

The only part of the contract Rogers could not approve, according to the lawyers, was a clause giving Remington the title of president emeritus of the Community College of Southern Nevada. Only the regents may honor a president in that way. Remington and his attorney, Kathy England, agreed to drop that clause from the contract, and all three parties signed the document Monday afternoon.

In exchange for a $200,000 buy-out of his contract, a $10,000 annual payment for the next seven years and $125,000 in legal fees, Remington agrees to drop his lawsuit against the Board of Regents and the whistleblower complaint he filed with the Nevada Department of Personnel.

The suit also allows Remington to accept a job offer from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he will be teaching in the College of Education helping to develop a new program in educational leadership. Remington said the contract he has considered is a three-year deal at about $100,000 a year, but that he is not sure when he'll begin teaching, as fall's classes start in a week.

In the contract, neither group admits guilt in the settlement agreement, and Remington retains his ability to sue current CCSN employee Topazia "Briget" Jones and former CCSN employee Larry Braxton, both of whom made complaints against Remington that the regents considered before his demotion.

Both Remington and his attorney said Rogers' decision to sign the settlement was a relief.

"I'm pleased that Jim Rogers took the initiative and that the two of us have been able to develop something that will allow me to get on with my life," Remington said by cell phone, on his way to sell property he and his wife own in Elko.

Remington said he looks forward to teaching again, and that his only real disappointment was that the settlement was not signed in time to allow him to teach this semester.

Most of the regents who could be reached on Monday said they were glad Rogers made the decision to put the Remington conflict behind them, but they were also the same regents who had voted against Remington's demotion.

They guessed that Rogers' decision would make some waves.

Regent Steve Sisolak said he had questioned all along why regents were being asked to sign the settlement agreement, and he said he was glad Rogers had the courage to do it on his own.

"Unlike other people we've had in the past, he's not trying to please the regents, he's trying to do what's right for the system and the students," Sisolak said.

Chairman Stavros Anthony would not comment on whether he agreed with the decision.

"If he has the authority and he thinks that is is the right thing to do, then that's the decision he made," Anthony said, one of the seven regents who voted to remove Remington.

Regents Tom Kirkpatrick and Jack Lund Schofield said they had to look closer at the memo send by the chancellor before commenting, although Kirkpatrick said he was "thinking about it unfavorably."

Regent Bret Whipple said he was very concerned about the chancellor's decision and was going to have dinner with him Monday night.

"I strongly believe that any issue should have been held in open session," Whipple said. "I believe that before you spend taxpayer dollars you should hear from all sides."

Rogers had tried to hear from all of the regents in a private video-conference scheduled for Monday morning, but canceled the meeting at the last minute when only a few regents showed up at either the Reno or Las Vegas location.

Regents are now scheduled to vote in public Friday on whether to approve a proposed settlement to resolve open-meeting law violations alleged by the attorney general's office.

They may also vote on the contract for Cummings after issues rose again this week over whether Rogers inadvertently violated the open-meeting law by gathering signatures on the Cummings and Remington agreements in private.

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