Regents Say All is Well After Spat With Rogers

Legislative leaders say Chancellor Jim Rogers' one-day resignation during a spat with two university regents won't affect his lobbying efforts next month in Carson City.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Senate Minority
Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said Rogers' disagreement with the
two Las Vegas regents was personal and won't influence budgetary
decisions when the session convenes Feb. 5.

Raggio said there will be some fallout from the spat "because it shows disunity between the chancellor and the Board of Regents. I'm pleased it's been resolved. I think it's important to the higher education system to have the chancellor and regents working together."

The idea that Gov. Jim Gibbons was behind an attempt to replace
Rogers because the chancellor had opposed Gibbons' bid for governor
is ridiculous, said eight of the 13 regents the Reno Gazette-Journal reached for comment last week.

In 2005, Rogers openly attacked Gibbons' intelligence and leadership skills as a potential governor. At one point, Rogers considered running against Gibbons, and he later established a $2 million political fund to fight his candidacy.

Melissa Subbotin, Gibbons' press secretary, said there was no political motivation to replace the chancellor.

The ruckus that led to the chancellor's resignation began with a "personal and confidential" letter Rogers wrote three days earlier to Bret Whipple, chairman of the board that oversees the state's higher education system.

In that letter, Rogers told Whipple that if the board elects Regent James Dean Leavitt as its next chairman or vice chairman, he would resign as chancellor.

"James Dean's lust for power along with his total lack of knowledge and sophistication in the operation of any large organization makes it impossible to deal with him," Rogers said in the letter.

The next day, Leavitt sent a letter to the Board of Regents calling for Rogers' resignation and saying he had met Jan. 10 with Rogers and merely "expressed concern" to one of the chancellor's staff over the hiring of Tessa Hafen, a former top aide to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., as the lobbyist for the planned Nevada Health Sciences System.

Leavitt said he called for Rogers' resignation because the chancellor "crossed the line" by threatening to quit if Leavitt were chosen as the board's next chairman or vice chairman when the regents elect new officers in June.

"We are a sovereign board that answers to the electorate, and we make the decisions as a board about who will serve as our chairman or vice chairman," Leavitt said.

Whipple said that was why he joined Leavitt in holding the Jan. 12 news conference at which they called for Rogers to resign.

He said his decision was motivated by principle, not prompted by
Gibbons looking for a way to replace Rogers with someone more to
the governor's liking.

"Ours is a (governmental) system of checks and balances," said
Whipple, a Republican.

"When Chancellor Rogers said the day a particular regent becomes chairman or vice chair that he will resign, or the moment this regent gets involved in the chancellor's business that he will resign, I don't care if he is someone who makes more money in one day than the average Nevadan make in a year, I won't allow it," Whipple said.

Rogers, 68, is a multimillionaire and former practicing lawyer who lives in Las Vegas. He owns Sunbelt Communications, which owns and operates a number of NBC affiliate television stations in the West.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)