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July 29, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: HIGHER EDUCATION:

At CSN, two in seemingly similar jobs draw 6 figures

One replaced official on leave; he’s back, but she’s staying, too

The College of Southern Nevada has an associate vice president for facilities management whose annual salary is $147,204 and an acting associate vice president for facilities management who is paid $131,254 a year.

Taxpayers might wonder why, at a time of severe budget reductions, the college has two people with such similar titles drawing six-figure pay.

Here’s how it happened:

Bob Gilbert, the associate vice president, went on paid administrative leave last summer after the Sun reported that CSN employees had accused him of directing college projects to subcontractors who worked, in exchange, at a discount on his home.

The state attorney general’s office launched an investigation, and Gilbert went on paid leave for a year.

To fill in for Gilbert, CSN brought on Sherri Payne, an architect, as acting associate vice president. Payne, who was previously making $114,733, got a raise to take on extra duties.

When Gilbert returned to CSN this July, Payne kept her title and the extra money.

Asked why CSN needs these two positions now, when in the past it did not, CSN spokeswoman K.C. Brekken wrote in an e-mail: “Bob brought major strengths to the college through the years in a leadership role as the College built new facilities ... Sherri is more on the operations side ... and is responsible for day-to-day operational activities as well as participating in strategic planning to ensure the cohesiveness with capital master planning, academic and student affairs and master planning.”

In an earlier e-mail, a different CSN spokeswoman said “Payne’s duties and Gilbert’s duties, while independently unique, do overlap and in doing so, serve as a ‘back up’ and check and balance in an operation that encompasses nearly two million square feet and functions 24/7.”

Michael Richards, CSN president, said, via Brekken, the college is still working out Gilbert’s duties and his and Payne’s titles.

Meanwhile, Gilbert remains under scrutiny by the attorney general. Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen told the Sun in July he could decide by early August whether to file criminal charges against Gilbert. Hafen said last week he did not have an update except to say he was still reviewing the case.

Gilbert could not be reached for comment.

•••

Last week, CSN announced it had received $8.2 million from the Engelstad Family Foundation that will allow the college to build 10,000 square feet for its cardiorespiratory sciences program. The money will also pay for health sciences scholarships and faculty training.

Ralph Engelstad, who built and owned the Imperial Palace, died in 2002 of lung cancer.

On Aug. 1, MGM Mirage majority shareholder Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation gave $5 million to furnish and equip a new clinical skills lab for medical and nursing students, and to support an initiative to better coordinate higher education health sciences programs across the state.

University system Chancellor Jim Rogers said the two recent gifts “are certainly a vote of confidence on the direction and quality ... of the system.”

“Both of them are beginning gifts for what could be long-term investments. The Lincy Foundation has a lot of money. The Engelstad foundation has a lot of money. So this is not somebody that in their last will and testament gave you the last $20 (they) had.”

The Lincy Foundation said it is open to donating more to higher education health sciences programs.

•••

Yes, regents defied Gov. Jim Gibbons’ order to cut each of the university system’s upcoming years’ budgets by 14.12 percent, instead requesting a 10.5 percent increase.

But they are also sending a letter explaining the system will make reductions later, when the state has a better idea of how much needs to be cut.

And Regent Dorothy Gallagher, who had expressed deep reservations about asking for more money, said that message was what made her feel comfortable requesting the nearly $1.9 billion budget.

Without the letter, she said, “In Carson City, they’re going to say, ‘What rock have they been living under?’ ”

“And we would be living under a rock if we did not realize the severity of the budget crisis.”

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