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October 9, 2015

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j. patrick coolican:

Did CSN try to silence whistleblower?

Lawsuit accuses school president of trying to sweep theft under the rug


Steve Marcus

Bob Gilbert, the former construction chief at the College of Southern Nevada, is led away by Deputy Marshall T.J. Knickmeyer after sentencing at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. Gilbert was found guilty by a Clark County jury in August 2010 on 11 counts of theft.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Gilbert Sentencing

Bob Gilbert, the former construction chief at the College of Southern Nevada, is led away after sentencing at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

CSN official William Gilbert is accused in the theft of college property in the building of this home on Mount Charleston.

An explosive lawsuit filed in District Court this week alleges that College of Southern Nevada President Michael Richards retaliated against employees who cooperated in the attorney general’s investigation of Bob Gilbert, the former construction chief and associate vice president convicted of theft of CSN materials.

The suit was brought by Donald Richard Bloyer, who has been an auditor at the school since 2004.

The suit says Bloyer discovered the disappearance of property in his audits and reported it but was ignored by the college. Later, he cooperated with the attorney general’s investigation that eventually ensnared Gilbert, who was convicted last year of taking materials and equipment to build his pricey home near Mount Charleston.

When Bloyer “did not keep quiet, despite pressure from his employer CSN, and instead told the truth, CSN retaliated,” the filing alleges.

Mark Alden, a member of the Nevada Board of Regents and staunch defender of Gilbert, is also named as a defendant in the civil suit. A message left with Alden was not returned.

Gilbert, who maintains his innocence, is out on bail awaiting appeal.

A CSN spokeswoman emailed a statement responding to the lawsuit: “The opinions stated in the lawsuit are contrary to the commonly known circumstances and historical facts. It is clear that CSN cooperated fully with the Attorney General’s office and was similarly responsive to requests made by the defense team. Many of CSN’s officers and staff were interviewed by both the attorney general and the defense, and we expected that all CSN employees testified fully and accurately.”

Here’s the timeline as laid out in the lawsuit:

• 2005 and 2006: Bloyer found that equipment couldn’t be accounted for and reported the matter in October 2006. His report was ignored, according to the filing.

• 2007: Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto began an investigation. (Richards was named interim president in August 2007 following the departure of Richard Carpenter, and then made president by the Nevada Board of Regents in 2008.)

• 2008: Gilbert was indicted.

• May 2010: Bloyer was subpoenaed to testify.

• June 2010: Bloyer informed Richards that he would testify truthfully and deliver a “mini-audit” for the attorney general that would revisit the 2006 audit that revealed property wasn’t accounted for. He also noted to Richards that CSN was still not compliant with Nevada System of Higher Education policies on keeping track of equipment.

Later that month, Richards sent Bloyer a memo telling him not to provide assistance to the attorney general without prior approval.

CSN responded to this allegation in its statement to the Sun: “CSN documents that were requested by the attorney general were to be sent through legal counsel’s office to ensure that the college’s attorney was aware of the contents of the documents.”

• July 2010: Bloyer raised concerns with Richards about the memo but was ignored, according to the filing. Later, Bloyer alleges, the memo was leaked to Gilbert’s defense team.

Also that month, Bloyer raised his concerns about the Richards memo and his treatment to John Mueller, then the executive director of human resources at CSN. According to the court filing, Mueller said his cooperation with the attorney general’s investigation was “detrimental to Mueller’s own future with CSN.”

Yet another employee, unnamed in the filing, told Bloyer of feeling pressured not to cooperate and being “terminated for reasons related to cooperation with and/or assistance to the attorney general on the Gilbert trial.”

• May 2011: Bloyer received a notice that his contract with CSN would not be renewed.

• September 2011: Bloyer filed a complaint with the attorney general.

Bloyer and his attorneys declined to comment further on the lawsuit.

Mueller, the human resources executive, is no longer at the college. He declined to comment.

The CSN statement concludes: “We look forward to responding in greater detail through the court system to ensure a full and proper response.”

Great. Because at this point a lot of us are wondering, what on earth is going on at the College of Southern Nevada?

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