Regents debate chancellor’s conduct regarding contributions
June 22, 2007
A plan by some regents to force Chancellor Jim Rogers to disclose any contributions he makes to their opponents failed by a single vote Friday, but prompted a discussion over the chancellor’s management style.
The proposal presented by Regent Ron Knecht would have required university system executives to disclose all contributions they make to candidates for the Board of Regents and to do so within 48 hours of writing the check.
Knecht pushed for the rule because Rogers contributed a total of $20,000 to his opponent, David Fulstone. Rogers said he didn’t try to hide the contribution and told Knecht about it when asked. But he said it was in support of Fulstone who he believed would be a good board member.
“I’ve known David Fulstone for a very long time.” He said. Roger worked with him on the DRI board and has known the family for years as well.
Knecht said the rule would apply only to contributions of $1,000 or more, but that it’s important to require the donor, not the candidate, to make the disclosure. He said sometimes when corporations are involved, the candidate may not know exactly who the money is coming from.
But Regent Jason Geddes said the responsibility for reporting contributions should be on the candidate, not the donor and he said he has never accepted a donation without knowing the source.
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Chairman Bret Whipple said his concern goes far beyond reporting of donations from the executive staff of the system and its institutions.
“The bigger issue is we have to come up to speed on the issue of taking money from outside donors,” he said.
Regent Dorothy Gallagher agreed, saying the whole issue of board policies on donations should be worked on in a board subcommittee, then brought back.
Knecht’s motion drew his support along with that of regents Stavros Anthony, Michael Wixom, Whipple, Howard Rosenberg and James Leavitt. That is one short of the seven needed for a majority.
The discussion was followed by a dialogue about the issue at the core of Knecht’s proposal – the division among board members over how Rogers runs the system. Because of the divisions on the board, they had a consultant do an evaluation of his performance, including comments from all regents, the presidents of the eight campus institutions and the chancellor’s office staff.
Consultant Carl Rowe of Clarity Consultants presented the report that Whipple described as “mixed,” drawing laughter from Rogers and several members.
“There’s not another person I’d rather have in charge, but you’re not perfect,” said Whipple.
Criticisms centered on Rogers “autocratic” management style with the sharpest comments from Rosenberg.
He said when regents gave Rogers control over the presidents, they abdicated their responsibility to manage the system and said the system needs chancellors who lead and bring people together, “not tsars.”
He particularly objected to Rogers giving campaign contributions to regent candidates.
“While legal counsel have given the opinion the contributions are legal, I don’t think they pass the smell test,” Rosenberg said.
He objected to Rogers publicly supporting the proposed constitutional amendment which would change the makeup of the board, making most members appointed and reducing its total membership.
He said the problem is Rogers doesn’t believe he works for the board.
“The chancellor’s attitude needs to change,” Rosenberg said.
Even his strongest supporters agreed Rogers needs to work better with the board. Steve Sisolak and Gallagher both suggested the board must take some of the blame.
“When this happens, it usually comes down to a breakdown in communication,” said Sisolak.
Gallagher said when she disagrees with Rogers, “I do something the rest of you don’t do. I get on the phone and talk with him.”
Rogers said none of the comments came as a surprise to him or his family.
“You have my pledge I will try harder,” he said.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.