Regents chair permitted $9,500 for out of doors lawyer following dispute between regent, chief of employees

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Following two public disputes that summer between Regent Lisa Levine and the Chief of Staff of the Regency Council, Dean Gould, Chairman of the Board Mark Doubrava tacitly approved a $ 9,500 spend on an outside attorney to provide legal advice to the Regent in anticipation of potential litigation, ”According to documents obtained through a request from The Nevada Independent for public records.

The exact nature of the external investigation remains confidential, and the mention of the parties involved and the full scope of the agreement were worked out from a copy of a letter of engagement between attorney Apalla Chopra of Los Angeles-based firm O & # 39; Melveny & Myers LLP and that Board of Regents.

However, Doubrava's statements last month confirmed that Chopra's involvement was due to incidents between Levine and Gould during board meetings in July and August.

Gould did not respond to multiple requests for comment, though an email received separately from The Nevada Independent shows that Gould issued a formal one later on August 17, three days after Doubrava wrote to the regents to inform them of Chopra's hiring Filed a complaint about a hostile work environment. However, Gould's complaint itself remained confidential and details are unknown.

As Chairman of the Board of Directors, Doubrava retains a broad mandate to "perform any system-appointed or delegated duties" and the appointment of Chopra would not be the Board's first use of outside legal counsel. The regents last turned to an outside attorney in 2016 after an investigation by the Las Vegas Review-Journal found that then-Chancellor Dan Klaich wrote a letter to lawmakers under the head of an adviser in 2012 during funding formula negotiations.

Otherwise, the chairman of the board of directors only sent a few communications to other regents about the specifics of the consultation and investigation of Chopra or about the costs associated with their employment.

Several regents contacted by The Nevada Independent on Thursday said they had not been made aware of the $ 9,500 fee for Chopra's services. This includes Regent Trevor Hayes, who also criticized the lack of a public meeting of the full board to assess Gould's behavior.

“[Gould's] behavior at that meeting [August 7th] was inappropriate,” Hayes said over a text message. "The entire board should determine what action, if any, should be taken."

In a written statement, Doubrava said he could not comment on the events in question due to confidentiality restrictions, but otherwise praised Chopra's expertise.

"Ms. Chopra is an expert in Labor Law and Title IX and has regularly represented colleges," said Doubrava. "Our process will be fair as we serve NSHE's overall mission to serve our community of students, staff and faculty members serve."

In a letter to the regents on August 14, Doubrava said that Chopra had been expressly discontinued because "events took place on July 23 and August 7, 2020 in our board meetings".

That first incident involved an exchange between Gould and Levine in which Gould questioned Levine's expanded use of the new division. Gould interrupted Levine and characterized her statements as "lectures" to the board, which prompted Levine's response that she would try "not to lecture and to be manned again".

At the next session on August 7th, after a heated debate over the emerging changes to the Title IX Sexual Misconduct Investigation Rules on Campus Levine, Gould interrupted Levine in a dispute over parliamentary procedure and said, “I don't want a man – Go ahead, but I have to if you keep talking to children. Please stop. "

The second incident exploded on social media with a viral tweet containing a video of Gould's remark, which was swiftly pushed back among many critics by a number of the state's most prominent Democratic politicians. These include Governor Steve Sisolak, who named Levine to the board, and MP Dina Titus, for whom Levine once served as a congressional officer.

Gould later denied any wrongdoing in a statement, referring instead to Levine's July 23 comment, deciphering it as "unprofessional and embarrassing" and "not an appropriate way for an employer to speak to an employee".

Directly related to his comments on Aug. 7, Gould's testimony said only that he was frustrated by "her lack of decency" and that he "shouldn't have bowed to her sharpness."

Outside of the Levine incidents, Gould is not without his critics. In a letter from the Nevada Faculty Association sent to the regents on August 14, Gould's behavior was described as "disrespectful and degrading" and accused the chief of staff and former chairmen of the board had misapplied and misinterpreted rules in recent years.

“While the most recent incident is a staffing issue with the Chief of Staff available to the Board of Regents, it also relates to broader matters of the Board's business that could be improved for the benefit of the transparency and accountability of the Board of Regents' Nevada System of Higher Education, ”says the letter. "We urge the Board of Regents to address both aspects of the problem in order to address endemic concerns."

Gould has been absent from board meetings since August 7, including a missed special session on August 21 and the first day of the Regent's two-day quarterly meeting on September 10.

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