Friday, Oct. 17, 2003 | 6 a.m.
Last week Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval said some state regulatory boards aren't disciplining members of the professions they oversee because they lack the funds to carry out legal action. Sandoval did say, though, that even if the boards couldn't afford to pay his office for the legal representation they receive, he would still offer his services to them. As the Sun reported Friday, at least five of the dozens of boards that the attorney general's office represents had a backlog of nearly 100 disciplinary cases. Sandoval obviously did the right thing by agreeing to help, but the situation also underscores a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
It's apparent that many boards, whose funding rests almost entirely on the fees they impose on the professionals they regulate, aren't charging enough. A contributing factor to the backlog is that some lawyers representing their clients try to string out a case as long as possible, knowing full well that the boards have a limited source of funding. It also doesn't help matters that many of these boards have staffs so small that it can make it next to impossible to do a good job. And while money is an issue, it also shouldn't go unsaid that the composition of these boards often is tilted so heavily to favor the industry that they're not nearly as tough as truly independent regulatory agencies.
When the next regular session of the Legislature convenes in 2005, lawmakers should review the adequacy of the fees being levied by the boards. For those agencies where the fees are too low for them to carry out their duties to protect the public, lawmakers should mandate that they be raised. Regulation on the cheap shouldn't be tolerated.