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NEVADA FACULTY ALLIANCE


ESTABLISHED 1983


Missing Buyouts in NSHE Buyout Reports

27 Feb 2024 7:34 PM | Kent Ervin (Administrator)

NSHE Buyout/Settlement Reports Omit Buyouts

Since 2019, the Board of Regents has required that NSHE institutions annually report their contract buyouts and settlements for transparency in the use of public funds and for holding institutions accountable for employment practices. However, while Regents have set transparency and accountability as a strategic goal, NSHE has recently allowed for the omission of several types of buyouts and settlements from the institutional reports to the Regents.

The proponents of Question 1 (to remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution) have attacked NSHE for a lack of transparency and accountability. To counter those arguments, the Regents should take prompt action to correct the NSHE General Counsel’s new interpretation of the buyout reporting policy. Without this action, institutions can hide their settlement and buyout activity.

Omission of Cases

The Regents’ briefing paper for the 2022 buyout report partly signaled the change in the implementation of the buyout reports:

"Due to the form currently used for institutions and units to report employee contract buyouts, the amounts reported include sums that are not directly associated with the contract buyout amount, such as required payouts of accumulated annual leave and amounts that may settle actual or anticipated litigation. Accordingly, the Chief General Counsel will update the reporting form to allow more accurate reporting in the future."

This implies that buyouts and settlements related to litigation or even the possibility of litigation are now excluded from the reports. In addition, buyouts and settlements are apparently not being reported in cases where no Notice of Non-Renewal is issued, such as agreements resulting in termination following disciplinary proceedings or other voluntary separation agreements. It is also not readily apparent which categories of NSHE employees are included in the reports. Starting in 2022, the annual reports were retitled from “Employee Buyouts/Settlements”  to “Employee Contract Buyouts.” As a result of the change in the interpretation of Title 4 Chapter 3 Section 49 of the NSHE Handbook, the reports are obscuring the number and magnitude of contract buyouts, which in some cases have been used to remove employees who have brought complaints against the institution and to establish non-disclosure agreements.

Buyout Report Summaries, 2019–23

Tables 1 & 2 summarize the buyout reports for 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. Looking at the NSHE report for 2023, it would appear that the number and amounts of buyouts have declined. Although such a scenario would be welcome, the definition of reportable buyouts has been narrowed into meaninglessness. 

For example, the University of Nevada, Reno, reported zero buyouts in 2023. However, NFA is aware that a former employee agreed to resign from their UNR position in 2023 in exchange for a large settlement payout. In addition, the buyout reports for 2022 do not include the well-publicized $27,000 per month paid to former UNR Athletic Director Doug Knuth after he was fired in April 2022 nor the roughly $100,000 per month due to former UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo after he was fired in November 2022. (Update 3/1/2024: According to public compensation records for 2023, Arroyo was paid $1.16 million in 2023 after his termination in 2022.  The UNR employee received a six-figure payout in 2023. )

(Update 3/1/2024. NSHE Chief General Counsel reported to the Board of Regents that the buyouts listed in the 2023 report "saved" $95,000 compared with the standard notice periods for Notices of Non-Renewal.  However any putative savings are almost certainly surpassed by settlement amounts that are not being reported.)

Table 1. NSHE Reported Buyouts/Settlements - Total Amounts

Calendar Year 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
UNLV $347,406 $90,409 $0 $0 $58,087
UNR $91,201 $53,144 $38,479 $40,310 $0
NSU $0 $0 $0 $0 $13,767
CSN $77,295 $0 $63,314 $0 $0
GBC $25,000 $184,001 $0 $0 $0
TMCC $71,988 $543,992 $403,097 $46,881 $75,235
WNC $0 $196,327 $122,583 $356,645 $55,192
DRI $40,000 $7,308 $0 $0 $0
System $60,741 $27,102 $154,158 $869,564 $15,533
Total $713,631 $1,102,283 $781,631 $1,313,400 $217,814

 Table 2. NSHE Reported Buyouts/Settlements - Number

Calendar Year 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
UNLV 6 2 0 0 1
UNR 4 2 1 2 0
NSU 0 0 0 0 1
CSN 3 0 1 0 0
GBC 1 3 0 0 0
TMCC 2 13 12 1 2
WNC 0 4 3 6 1
DRI 1 1 0 0 0
System 1 1 3 5 1
Total 18 26 20 14 6

Full Transparency and Accountability

As stewards of public funds, the Board of Regents should clarify the reporting policy to encompass ALL compensation that is not earned through service, for all classes of employees and former employees. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Any termination settlement, regardless of whether it is related to litigation;
  • Any contract buyout, regardless of whether it is associated with a Notice of Non-Renewal or disciplinary action;
  • Any settlements or payouts for damages;
  • Payouts resulting from termination pursuant to an employment contract;
  • Involuntary administrative leave or voluntary administrative leave under a termination agreement;
  • Annual leave payouts associated with an involuntary termination or a settlement agreement;
  • Payouts related to voluntary separation or retirement incentives; and
  • “Ghost employees” with no or minimal assigned duties.

Transparent reporting of these items would not require the identification of individuals or release of confidential information, only the aggregate numbers and monetary amounts by institution and type of payout. Payments for attorney fees and expenses as part of a settlement or termination agreement should also be reported. Note that the former NSHE General Counsel told the Board of Regents that settlement agreements are not confidential per Nevada Revised Statutes:

"NRS provides that any agreement to settle a claim or action brought against an employee must not provide any terms of the agreement be confidential. NRS also provides that the settlement must include a number for attorney’s fees and costs to be paid pursuant to the agreement and that any settlement is public record."

The omission of relevant data in reports to the Board allows NSHE institutions to obfuscate the use of public funds and to avoid accountability for employment practices. 

As always, faculty members with an employment-related issue should feel free to contact the NFA for guidance. 

***

Data and interpretations are based on the cited reports and other Board materials. Corrections from authoritative sources are welcome (Contact: kent.ervin@nevadafacultyalliance.org).



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