High salaries at Nevada boards criticized in audit | NevadaAppeal.com

High salaries at Nevada boards criticized in audit

Executive branch auditors issued a report Thursday critical of numerous boards and commissions they say are paying directors more even than the governor makes.

The audit issued by Audit Manager Warren Lowman and Auditor Mark Richards says that 12 percent of the boards reviewed were violating the statute limiting nearly all state salaries to 95 percent of what the governor is paid.

Gov. Brian Sandoval makes $141,867 annually, $67.94 an hour.

The audit apparently drew a sharp response from a number of boards which sent letters and comments protesting and disagreeing with the audit findings.

That drew a sharp response from Sandoval at the audit committee meeting, charging that those letters were defiant.

"Some of the boards and commissions feel like they're autonomous and they don't have to respond," Sandoval said.

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He said he gets the impression that after he appoints board members, they feel that's it and the executive branch no longer controls them.

"It's really frustrating when my office has to bang heads with the boards," Sandoval said.

According to the audit, there are four full-time boards — Pharmacy, Medical, Contractors and Accountancy — and two part-time boards — Speech and Environmental — where the director is paid more than the governor. The highest paid is Pharmacy where the director's salary was listed by auditors at $181,677 annually.

Most of those boards, under current rules, set their own director's salary but auditors say it's still controlled by the 95 percent rule.

Auditors reported that one executive director was employed part time for one board and working as an independent contractor for two other boards. According to the audit, that person received $194,000 in fiscal year 2017 and was on track to make $208,000 in fiscal 2019.

In 2010, the governor issued a memorandum that directed board salaries be equivalent to similar positions within the state system. Auditors said almost two-thirds of boards reported they didn't follow that directive. The five highest paid board directors were well above the state range for similar jobs which ranged from $101,000 to $132,000 a year.

Lowman told the audit committee headed by Sandoval that most of the boards indicated they weren't aware of that memorandum.

Auditors also were critical of some boards they indicated used much more expensive outside legal counsel rather than the Attorney General's office staff. For 2017, the audit says, average AG legal costs were $154 an hour while outside counsel averaged $223 an hour.

Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison said he understands the need for outside counsel when special knowledge, experience and expertise is necessary but that, otherwise, the attorney general's deputies can handle the work for significantly less cost.

Sandoval said he would sign a request for the Attorney General to issue an opinion on the legality of the salary issues. He and other members of the panel including Hutchison, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske all urged the executive audit staff to analyze the cost/benefit of deputy attorney general staff as opposed to using outside counsel.