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August 22, 2019

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j. patrick coolican:

Elected regent has no business working on CSN theft case

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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.

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J. Patrick Coolican

Let me paint a scenario: Let’s say an employee of your company is accused of embezzling company money.

Would it be appropriate for a member of the board of directors to work on behalf of the employee’s defense team?

Would that sound bizarre to you? It certainly does to me, but that’s exactly what’s happened with the Nevada System of Higher Education, which is governed by the elected Board of Regents.

Mark Alden conducted forensic accounting in the case of Bob Gilbert, a former associate vice president at the College of Southern Nevada who was convicted last year of stealing university property to build a big house in Kyle Canyon.

I’m not the first to report this fact, but let me be the first to note how ridiculous it is.

I recently wrote about a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by a longtime auditor at the College of Southern Nevada. Donald Richard Bloyer alleges he faced retribution from college administration after assisting the attorney general in her investigation of Gilbert for taking university property.

Regent Alden was named in the lawsuit, although the allegations against him aren’t very specific. I called Alden the day I wrote about the lawsuit but never heard back.

The following day, I received a call from Alden. He assured me, Gilbert is innocent, and he knows it because he conducted the forensic accounting and has determined that nothing was missing from the college.

He’s a certified public accountant and accomplished forensic accountant, having worked for the Gaming Control Board and other government agencies.

After spending lots of money on his defense, Gilbert pleaded indigence. In other words, taxpayers — you and I — hired Alden to do this forensic accounting.

He says because of Gilbert’s indigence claim, it was the county, and not Gilbert, who actually hired him.

This strikes me as a distinction without a difference. Alden also notes that by the time of his work on behalf of Gilbert’s defense team Gilbert no longer worked for NSHE.

This still has me wondering why he would get anywhere near this case given his status as a regent.

Alden says he’s always stridently independent when he takes this work, sometimes to the chagrin of clients who would like him to cook the books.

He says he asked a higher education system lawyer, Bart Patterson, who is now president of Nevada State College, if the work would conflict with his duties as regent and the attorney gave him the OK. Patterson said in an email that it would not be appropriate to comment “on matters pertaining to pending litigation.”

Still, I wonder, was there no one else available for the job other than a guy who sits on the Board of Regents and thus is responsible to oversee the college?

Alden was incredulous at my own incredulity about all this. C’mon — what’s the big deal?

It’s a question that’s asked too often by officials in questionable situations.

In this case, Alden should have answered it differently.

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