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October 25, 2014

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Rogers’ allies send a message as they leave him unfettered

The more some university system regents try to handcuff Chancellor Jim Rogers, the more he continues to solidify his position of authority with the board majority. On Friday, Rogers stared down one of the regents to make his point.

After some of the contentious moments that have come to typify the board's conflicted feelings toward its top executive, regents voted to allow Rogers to keep his power to discipline and fire presidents, but - to satisfy regents who wanted to take that power away - instructed Rogers to consult with the regents chairman before taking any action.

The vote only formalized current practice in that Rogers says he has always consulted the regents chairman on any major decisions. The requirement to "consult" does not limit Rogers' ability to act.

Regents then overwhelmingly voted against two motions to limit Rogers' ability to create and fill new positions in the Nevada System of Higher Education office as he sees fit.

The votes were symbolic in two ways, regents on the winning side said: They showed continued support for Rogers while sending a message to regents in the minority that their continued attempts to limit the chancellor's power only managed to waste board time.

"This was a vote of confidence for the chancellor," said Regent Steve Sisolak , who maneuvered to force a vote on both issues to make sure they don't come back later . "I was not going to let it go away without an up or down vote, and we will keep voting it down if they bring it back."

A small coalition of regents, ranging from two to six - depending on what the chancellor did that week to impress or annoy them - has continually questioned whether regents were wise to have granted Rogers the powers to fire presidents and hire all system staff. They have never had the nine votes needed to challenge the decision, but Rogers ' evaluation in June showed the regents were deeply divided over how much power he should have.

The majority, as seen Friday, think Rogers should keep the powers they granted him, but do a better job of communicating with board members.

Rogers said after the vote that he thought the action was the work of four regents who have continually tried to undermine him, and that he took their actions personally. Although he has publicly tussled with Regents Howard Rosenberg, James Dean Leavitt and Bret Whipple over policy issues, Rogers ' biggest concern Friday was with Regent Ron Knecht.

In a heated exchange, Rogers asked Knecht to give him an example of a system position about which Knecht would have more insight and knowledge as a part-time trustee than Rogers did , running the system day to day.

Knecht said it wasn't a matter of who had better judgment, but a matter of making sure there was a balance of power between regents and the chancellor. It was also regents' responsibility to check the chancellor's ability to fire presidents, Knecht said.

Rogers then asked Knecht what his next move would be to strip the chancellor's position of his power, which Knecht took exception to . Again and again, Knecht reiterated that for him, these were policy issues, and that Rogers should not take it personally.

Knecht ultimately moved to compromise on Rogers' firing power by requiring him to consult with the regents chairman, which was Chairman Michael Wixom's idea. He also twice tried to pull from the agenda the proposal to limit Rogers' ability to create new positions, which Sisolak insisted be voted on.

Knecht and Leavitt said they saw no point in bringing the issues back to the board again, but Rosenberg, now vice chairman, said he might try to bring it back - at some point, in some reincarnation.

It may never go anywhere, Rosenberg said, but it showed his constituents he was concerned about something that concerned them.

"That's called democracy," Rosenberg said. "Isn't it grand?"

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