Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2019

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Analysis:

Regent laments that Page’s apparent ethics violation was kept quiet

UNLV Campus View

UNLV Photo Services

This file photo shows a view of the UNLV campus.

Updated Sunday, July 28, 2019 | 10:02 a.m.

When Nevada Regent Patrick Carter voted for his colleague Kevin Page to serve as the board’s chairman in June 2017, he didn’t know that Page had committed an apparent breach of the regents’ ethics guideline two years earlier by demanding special treatment for a family member who was attending UNLV at the time.

That’s because the regents’ chairman in 2015, Rick Trachok, chose to handle the matter informally and one-on-one with Page after learning about it.

Click to enlarge photo

Kevin Page, then-chairman of the Nevada Board of Regents, speaks with the Sun editorial board, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013.

But in an interview Thursday, Carter said that when Page’s behavior was exposed last month, he was dismayed that he and his colleagues hadn’t been told about the situation.

“I'm always disappointed when people are alleged to have misused their authority,” he said. “I’m kind of surprised that it was not brought to our attention.”

Carter, who was elected to the board in 2016, said that if he and his colleagues had known about the matter, he would have sought more information on it before the vote on Page in 2017. He said that although Trachok wasn’t required to handle the matter under the board’s bylaws, he would have preferred for him to have brought it to the regents’ attention.

“I think you disclose everything,” he said. “If there's any issue that rises to that level, I think you just have to disclose it.”

As it was, Trachok joined Carter and other regents in voting for Page to become chair of the board for the second time in 2017. Only one member of the board, current Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear, voted against Page.

“If (the Page situation) had been brought to our attention, I'm not 100 percent sure he would have been elected to chair when he was,” Carter said. “I think we would have wanted more information. But I think if it would have come out that he acted that specific way before that vote, I think it probably wouldn't have been him as the chair. I don't think I would have voted for him if I'd known that had happened.”

Page served as chair until this past June, and like Trachok remains on the board.

But emails shared with the Sun show that in 2015, he pressured UNLV to allow his relative to take a high-level course in the Lee Business School without taking a prerequisite course. When UNLV administrators resisted, saying such a waiver could jeopardize the business school’s accreditation and would be unfair to students who had been held to prerequisite requirements, Page responded with a non-specific threat.

“Next semester the LBS better not play games with (student) and her getting her classes,” Page wrote in a message dated Aug. 30, 2015. “For some reason, people take kindness for weakness. I am usually very nice but, can change gears when I need to.”

Page’s behavior appears to run counter to the Board of Regents’ ethical code of conduct, which includes a clause saying regents should not use their power to “attempt to intimidate or influence employees or students to gain unwarranted privileges, advantages, or preferences for the Regent or for his or her family members, other individuals, or business entities.”

UNLV sources said they believed Page violated that standard — they felt Page tried to intimidate them into meeting his demands and that the regent was acting in the interests of his family and not the student body at large.

Trachok initially either declined or ignored messages seeking comment, but this week sent the Sun a short email saying that he confronted Page after receiving a phone call from UNLV about Page’s behavior.

“After that call I then advised Kevin Page to drop it, and it was my understanding that he did and that no waiver was granted,” Trachok said in the email.

Trachok has declined to answer follow-up questions, including why he opted to handle the issue informally. Page and current Regent Chairman Jason Geddes also have not commented since the matter came to light.

On Thursday, the Sun reached out to every member of the 13-member board for comment. Only Carter responded.

Carter, the chair of the regents’ Audit and Compliance Committee, said he contacted Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly after learning about the situation. Based on that contact, Carter said, Reilly has met with UNLV deans and told them to report any inappropriate requests by the regents to the chancellor’s office and the UNLV president’s office. Thus far, Carter said, no reports have come in.

Carter, stressing that he was speaking for himself and not as a board representative, said he believed the matter was now under the purview of the Nevada Commission on Ethics since the regents’ bylaws contain no method for censuring a board member or otherwise holding them accountable.

The matter involving Page has sparked questions on campus about whether his threat was related to the controversial ouster of UNLV President Len Jessup in the spring of 2018. Some campus sources suspect that Jessup was pushed out so that the regents could find a more compliant president. Some believe that Acting President Marta Meana is that person, given that the regents voted in February to waive a rule that prohibits acting presidents from becoming candidates in searches.

Campus sources were suspicious that in emails and on Meana’s staff page, her title has become appearing without the “acting” modifier. However, that’s not a new practice: UNLV took a similar approach with Acting President Don Snyder, who served before Jessup came to UNLV in 2015. University officials say the modifier is removed to simplify the title for business, communications and marketing purposes.

Editor's note: After this analysis was published, Carter informed the Sun that there had been a misunderstanding between him and Reilly regarding the timing of Reilly's meeting with the UNLV deans. Although the analysis correctly reflected Carter's original understanding of the timing, the Nevada System of Higher issued a clarification on when the meeting actually occurred. The clarification reads as follows: "Chancellor Reilly is available to all NSHE institution presidents and communicates with them daily. When Chancellor Reilly started his role with NSHE in August 2017, he met with the presidents and made it clear that any concerns regarding requests from members of the Board of Regents should be brought to him directly.

"In spring 2018, Chancellor Reilly met with the college deans at UNLV to gather their input on the change in leadership at the university and the process to find a new president. During that meeting, Chancellor Reilly was asked what the process was regarding Board of Regents requests. Chancellor Reilly explained that concerns about requests from Regents made to an institution should normally be brought to the attention of the institution's President, but he clarified that any concerns should go to him until a new President was in place at UNLV.

"Chancellor Reilly was not aware of the 2015 email until the Sun recently made a public records request."