In December 2016, the Board of Regents hired a private firm, AGB, to conduct a national search for candidates to become the next chancellor of the Nevada system of higher education. AGB collected 33 applications from around the country, and then culled that group down to the top nine applications. What happened after that seems a bit odd. After the list was pared down to the top five candidates, all five of the would-be chancellors suddenly dropped out of contention. Executives at AGB described this as “highly unusual.”
What did the job candidates know that the public has yet to learn? Did they figure out that the search was rigged? News reports indicate the candidates withdrew before they ever met with regents or other Nevada officials.
A banker named Kevin Page, who was chairman of the regent’s search committee, vowed to move forward by looking for “internal candidates.”
A few weeks later, the search generated another unsavory headline, along with harsh criticism from within. One of Kevin Page’s fellow regents leveled allegations of cronyism and illegal behavior.
Here is how it was reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Regent Allison Stephens accused Board Chairman Rick Trachok of “inappropriate and possibly illegal behavior” regarding the failed national search for a new chancellor to lead the Nevada System of Higher Education, a letter obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows.
Stephens said in the letter dated May 8 that Trachok “defied the will of the board and its committees, violated the open meeting law, deviated from standard board process and called into question the ethical standards the board represents.”
Basically, it appeared that board chairman Rick Trachock was maneuvering to make sure the interim chancellor John White would be hired as chancellor, instead of conducting a national search. One regent alleged that members of the board had likely violated the Open Meeting Law by discussing how to give White the permanent job. After the Review-Journal story broke, White withdrew his name from consideration.
As the search continued, regent Page started hearing from influential Nevadans about a particular candidate who had strong connections. As Page told the Review-Journal, there was one name in particular that “ kept coming up in my conversations with people.”
People? Which people? Fellow bankers? Political fixers? The guy who performs lube jobs on the Page family’s station wagon? Who was whispering in Kevin Page’s ear? We may never know the answer to those questions, but the name of the internal candidate was finally revealed. Former Clark County manager Thom Reilly is a highly-regarded, politically astute public official. He has never managed a college or university before, never managed so much as a junior high school, let alone an entire statewide university system. Reilly had an ace in the hole though. He had extensive political connections, in particular, friendships with influential political consultants, the same people who had been nuzzling up to Kevin Page. Reilly landed the job, along with a hefty salary that was $100,000 more than his far more experienced predecessor had earned.
In Las Vegas, it is always who you know, rather than what you know.
Can anyone out there shed some light on this process? Does anyone know why Page led the charge to hire Reilly?
These days, Page is the iron-fisted chairman of the Board of Regents. He barks at university officials who appear before the board as if they are his employees, or maybe vassals.
Case in point, at the most recent board meeting, Page interrupted a highly respected physician who happens to be part of the administration for the new UNLV School of Medicine and ordered the esteemed academic to “stop talking like a doctor and start talking like a CEO.”
University Leaks Info is all ears. Please forward any insider information or insight about Chairman Page.
Here are the Review-Journal stories which provide background on how this situation unfolded.