Nevada leaders decided Tuesday to pay a woman $142,500 because the university system didn't promote her.
Sharolyn Craft sued after someone else was named state director of the Nevada Small Business Development Center in Las Vegas. She had been southern regional director of the University of Nevada, Reno-operated center and argued she was more educated and more experienced, yet wasn't given a chance to apply for the job.
Stan Miller, torts manager for the Attorney General's Office, said the position is unclassified and an "at will" post that doesn't require a search and open application process.
"The university didn't do anything technically wrong," he said. "But the perception would be that they did."
Mary Dugan, representing UNR, said the campus followed appropriate processes, but that "there is a significant downside risk" to a trial.
"If she receives even one dollar, she's entitled to receive attorney's fees," she said.
Those fees are already at $80,000 and, if the system went to trial, would double or more. And that doesn't count what a jury might award Craft.
She said given that a mock jury and review by experts showed a good chance the university would lose in court, settling for $142,500 now is probably cheaper.
"Sometimes you can truly do everything correctly but can be perceived as something else," she told the Board of Examiners, which consists of Gov. Kenny Guinn, Secretary of State Dean Heller and Attorney General Brian Sandoval.
Guinn and Heller questioned whether the settlement might create an expensive precedent, saying every future appointment might result in a lawsuit by someone who thinks they're better qualified.
"Do they have the inherent right to be considered for a promotion?" Guinn asked.
Heller said Guinn could face a lawsuit every time he appoints someone to a post.
"The next time the governor wants to hire a chief of staff, do we have to advertise?" he asked.
Sandoval said he supported to recommendation to settle. He said he thinks the case can be read narrowly enough so it doesn't open the door to more lawsuits.
Guinn and Heller reluctantly agreed and the vote to settle was unanimous.
In addition, the board:
-- Voted to release $5.5 million to the Department of Taxation to purchase equipment, software and technical expertise needed to implement new state tax laws. The money will cover expenses including start-up costs, new positions and information technology costs. It is the first request for part of the $12.5 million allocated by lawmakers to upgrade the state's tax collection systems. Another $952,635 was approved for the Gaming Control Board to implement changes in tax laws it manages;
-- Approved $479,482 to the Desert Research Institute to fund its annual weather modification program. The cloud seeding program relies on ground-based generators triggered during winter storms. The program has been credited with significantly increasing the amount of precipitation during storms, adding to the amount of water available in western Nevada each spring;
-- Approved a series of eight contracts between the Division of Child and Family Services and Nevada counties totaling just over $1 million. The money goes to juvenile probation and youth services agencies in those counties to support programs for at-risk youth. Those programs are designed to keep youths from having to be committed to state custody. Carson City will receive $52,318 of that total and Douglas County $41,486. The majority of the money -- $746,196 -- will go to Clark County.