Board of Regents Sued by Attorney General

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Attorney General Brian Sandoval sued Nevada's university and community college regents on Thursday for alleged open-meeting law violations - and said their recent demotion of a community college president should be erased.

The lawsuit filed in Clark County District Court follow an investigation into five complaints about the regents' meetings on Nov. 17 and Nov. 20 that led to the demotion of Ron Remington from his post as president of the Community College of Southern Nevada.

If Sandoval wins the case, the action taken by the regents at those meetings would be voided. He contends the violations included closed-door deliberations and decisions, failure to give adequate notice to Remington and others facing possible disciplinary action, unclear agendas and other legal flaws.

The regents voted 7-6 to demote Remington despite concerns voiced by some regents that they were violating the state open-meeting law. But the university's general counsel, Tom Ray, told them the discussion was too sensitive to occur in public. Regents also voted to demote John Cummings, the lobbyist for CCSN, back to faculty status.

They failed to pass a motion to fire Topazia "Briget" Jones, who described herself as a special assistant to Assemblyman Wendell Williams, D-Las Vegas. The regents based their actions on a lengthy investigative report that was conducted after Jones filed a complaint against the college's administration.

Regents Bret Whipple, Tom Kirkpatrick and Jack Schofield said they voted to demote Remington because he tried to get the Legislature to create four-year programs at CCSN without their authorization. The regents also said Cummings had received preferential treatment from Remington.

Both Remington and Cummings have denied the allegations. They both spoke to the university system's investigator who was hired after Jones filed her complaint, but didn't address the regents directly before the vote.

Besides Sandoval's request for a finding of open-meeting law violations and an injunction against future violations, he issued an opinion that goes into more detail about the regents' meetings and concludes that numerous open-meeting law violations did occur.

The 19-page opinion elaborates on the actions against Remington and Cummings, and also says regents erred by deliberating in closed session on whether to let Jane Nichols, chancellor of the University and Community College System of Nevada, sit in on the closed meetings. Nichols was allowed to stay.

Also during the meetings, the opinion states regents broke the open-meeting law by discussing activities of Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, who also is a university system employee.

Nichols said she was "quite surprised" by Sandoval's move to nullify the regents' actions, adding, "I know the board acted in good faith, to try to follow the open-meeting law. But obviously he has a different opinion."

"What he's asking for is really based on what he sees as incorrect process and agenda," Nichols said, adding, "It doesn't in any way go to the merits of the decision itself."

"That's the issue the board is more concerned with. If it erred on process, then the board will go back and do it correctly."