Fired Southern Nevada Community College employee seeks damages

LAS VEGAS - The former Community College of Southern Nevada employee who blew the whistle on the school's bust-building enterprise is seeking damages on grounds that include wrongful termination.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Dan Bellas said he was hired in October 1999 to work as an ''art preparator,'' a post with a job description that made no mention of creating bronze busts for influential residents.

''Bellas was soon told that his job would almost exclusively consist of the creation of bronze busts of political figures, as the project was going to be expanded to include bronze busts of all of the Nevada legislators,'' according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Bellas was retaliated against when he began questioning his bosses about the ethics and legality of using college funds, equipment and employees to create bronze busts of Gov. Kenny Guinn, state Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Las Vegas television executive and philanthropist Jim Rogers.

Bellas said he took a leave of absence to determine the appropriate course of action. He later returned to work, satisfied that he could attend to his duties without violating any state law, according to the lawsuit.

Administrators informed him that his leave of absence was not approved, and told him that they thought he had resigned. He was fired in December 1999 after refusing to resign.

The matter was scheduled for an administrative hearing in August. However, Bellas skipped the hearing and instead filed a civil lawsuit, which asks that he be reinstated. He also seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The lawsuit contends the bust program was designed to ''win political favor with key political figures and contributors and to reward said individuals for political favors and contributions.''

Earlier this year, former community college President Richard Moore, now heading up the proposed Nevada State College at Henderson, defended using college dollars, equipment and employees to create the bronze busts. Moore said he could not think of a trio who had done more for higher education in Nevada.

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