Appointment of new benefits board members stalled | NevadaAppeal.com

Appointment of new benefits board members stalled

After a lengthy June meeting in which the Public Employee Benefits Board approved regulations expanding benefits to domestic partners, Gov. Jim Gibbons elected not to re-appoint two members whose terms expired June 30.

The proposal to extend benefits would cost an estimated $8.6 million during two years, a move Gibbons said the state simply couldn’t afford in the middle of an economic crisis. He made it clear he didn’t appreciate the board ignoring his wishes.

Ron Swirczek, representing retirees, and Jacque Ewing Taylor, representing higher education members, were arguably the two leaders on that issue and helped push the proposed regulations through despite opposition by Gibbons.

But when the PEBP board convened Thursday, both Swirczek and Taylor were in attendance and voting as members because the governor’s office hasn’t appointed their replacements yet.

Actually, Gibbons’ staff did select two new members. But neither was from the lists of candidates nominated by retirees and the university system. A member of Gibbons’ staff had said earlier that if they didn’t like the nominees presented, they’d simply pick someone else – despite being informed that statute asks the governor to select from the nominations presented for each of those board seats.

For example, NRS287.041 says the governor should appoint the university system’s representative “upon consideration of any recommendations of organizations that represent employees of the (system).” The same language is applied to the retiree representative.

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If he doesn’t like those nominees, the governor’s office has traditionally asked the employee groups to present different candidates.

When Chief of Staff Josh Hicks reviewed the statute, he said he stopped the process and asked for more recommendations.

But, under an attorney general’s opinion, most board and commission members continue to serve after their term ends until an appointment is named. The purpose of that rule is to ensure boards aren’t left unable to conduct business because of vacancies.

Hicks said there wasn’t time to get the new appointments completed before Thursday’s meeting. As a result, Swirczek and Taylor were still voting members of the board. He said new appointments will be made in the near future.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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