Home>Articles>Exclusive: Regent Byron Brooks responds to Investigation Finding NHSE Chancellor Rose’s Allegations ‘Disingenuous’

NSHE Chancellor Melody Rose (Photo: nshe.nevada.edu)

Exclusive: Regent Byron Brooks responds to Investigation Finding NHSE Chancellor Rose’s Allegations ‘Disingenuous’

‘Chancellor Melody Rose’s allegations against me are unwarranted, atrocious, and completely disingenuous’

By Megan Barth, February 25, 2022 7:49 am

According to numerous news reports, Melody Rose is no stranger to drama, politics, and  controversy during her 25 year career in education. Since June 2020, under her leadership as Chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NHSE), drama, politics and controversy continue to follow her.

Related reports dating years back, highlight her career in education—immersed in gender equity, policy, and politics, During her presidency at Marylhurst University, a private Catholic college in Oregon, the 125 year-old school closed due to bankruptcy and was subject to protests from the community, faculty and students.

According to the Willamette Weekly:

“Marylhurst’s tax returns show that revenues plunged from $21.5 million in 2014 to $15.5 million in 2016 and over the past two years, the university posted combined operating losses of $6 million.

Marylhurst brought in its current president, Rose, formerly the dean of undergraduate studies Portland State University, in 2014 hoping to boost its fortunes but that did not work.”

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported:

“Rose’s tenure there has been a bit bumpy from the start. One year in, students and professors held a demonstration against her decisions to restructure academic departments, lower pay for adjunct faculty and cut classes. She defended the adjustments.

‘We’re going to have folks who are uncomfortable with change or affected by change,’  she told The Lake Oswego Review.

She admits that not all of the changes have been embraced by the university community, but says “part of the beauty of being at a university is we have a diversity of views.”

The latest drama within NHSE under her leadership, stems from her numerous allegations and amended complaints against specific Regents.

Her first complaint against The Board of Regents was filed October 4, 2020, accusing Chair Cathy McAdoo and Vice Chair Patrick Carter of a “sex-based hostile work environment.” The complaint was later amended to include additional allegations against other Regents, including Regent Byron Brooks, claiming she felt disrespected, embarrassed, isolated, and humiliated as a result of “abusive behavior.”

Complaint Addendum - 11-21-21

An investigation into these complaints was immediately launched by an outside firm.

The October 4th complaint was amended a second time on January 15th, 2022. According to the investigate report (included at end), Rose claims: “alleged interference, disparagement, and abuse from Regents Brooks and Boylan, including a ‘demeaning’ experience with Regent Brooks that, because he was armed, left the Chancellor feeling physically unsafe.”

02.3.2022 Letter from D. Polsenberg to Chair Pro Tempore

The Nevada news tabloids ran with this story when Rose’s complaint was leaked to The Nevada Independent. Generated by leaks from within or near her department, a series of articles has been written and petitions have been circulated by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) calling for Regents’ resignations, which are “as reckless as Chancellor Rose’s allegations”, according to Regent Brooks.

At the time of the leak, The Nevada Independent reported:

“Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Melody Rose accused Regent Byron Brooks of attempting to intimidate her during a private legal briefing in December while Brooks was carrying a firearm on his person — the latest serious rift between members of the higher education system’s governing board and its top administrative executive.

In a letter sent to regents on Feb. 3 from attorney Daniel Polsenberg of the firm Lewis Roca and obtained by The Nevada Independent, Brooks allegedly carried a firearm into a closed-door meeting between regents, the chancellor, two members of the NSHE legal team and lawyers conducting the investigation into Rose’s ongoing hostile workplace complaint.

According to the letter, Brooks — who was elected to the board in 2020 —  requested permission to carry a firearm onto NSHE property under system bylaws on Aug. 24, and eventually received conditional approval from then-Board Chair Cathy McAdoo on Sept. 29.

State law prohibits the possession of weapons, including guns, on NSHE campuses and administrative buildings. However, the board’s code allows for written exemptions to be granted either by institutional presidents or by the chancellor if the request is for a “system location.” It’s unclear why the exemption in Brooks’ case was issued by McAdoo and not by Rose, and McAdoo did not respond to requests for comment.”

Yet, it is clear why the exemption was issued by McAdoo and not by Rose. It is unclear if the Nevada Independent sought comment from Rose, rather than rely on leaked and unsubstantiated information, but in a letter obtained by The Globe, McAdoo was legally authorized to grant the exemption.

Regent Brooks Firearm Request Response frin Chair McAdoo 9.29.2021 (1)

 

The letter above signed by Chairwoman McAdoo clearly states:

“Chancellor Rose has forwarded to me your request for authorization to carry a concealed firearm…Given your position as a Regent and the need for an independent review of you request, our legal team has advised that it is appropriate for this review and decision to be made by the Chair of the Board.” (emphasis ours)

The investigation came to a conclusion on February 4th and summarily states:

“Through the course of our investigation, we interviewed Chancellor Rose on two occasions. We also interviewed eighteen other current and former Regents and NSHE employees from both the Reno and Las Vegas offices.2 The interviews were primarily focused on determining whether Chancellor Rose’s specific allegations could be substantiated, although we also discussed whether there was a “disregard for female employees” or “pervasive sexist culture” within NSHE, as alleged by the Chancellor.

We observed and found noteworthy that the Chancellor sincerely believes all of the statements in her Complaint. However, our investigation did not substantiate her claims of a sex- based hostile work environment. We found no direct evidence of a hostile workplace, as defined in Federal case law interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the indirect or circumstantial evidence that we considered was, in our view, insufficient to establish a prima facie case thereunder. Many of the Chancellor’s comments in the Complaint were based on information relayed to her by others, the meaning or intent of which could have been inadvertently modified by others or interpreted by the Chancellor without the benefit of context, background, or an understanding as to another’s intent. And, in fact, in large part, the hearsay reported in the Complaint either could not be corroborated or appeared to have alternative meaning or intent.

Nor did our investigation corroborate Chancellor Rose’s claims of unlawful retaliation, as alleged in Addendum 1, or substantiate her claims that various Federal and State laws had been violated. We were likewise unable to corroborate the claims that Chair McAdoo and Vice Chair Carter (or other Regents) failed to adhere to the Board of Regents’ Handbook or follow its Policies and Procedures regarding communications, reporting structures, agenda items, the performance evaluation process, and the Chancellor’s role and authority, or that any Regent breached, or interfered with, the Chancellor’s employment agreement. That is, in general, we found insufficient facts to support the material allegations of any of these claims, although we found examples of conduct that lacked collegiality, particularly as it related to communication style…

(4) the possibility that political differences (emphasis ours), including with respect to COVID-19 policies for campus communities, may have contributed to the formation of factions among the Regents, which may have, in turn, negatively influenced communications between certain Regents and the Chancellor. That is, these factions, which we observed in the System office, too, may have initially resulted in objectively unfriendly displays toward the Chancellor and may have compounded over time such that, as of late, the Chancellor subjectively perceives any exchange that is not supportive of her viewpoints to be hostile. We found that this situation likely created a more challenging work environment than the Chancellor expected and may have caused her to conclude that the negative climate from which she seeks relief was based on her sex. We found insufficient evidence to substantiate an actionable sex-based hostile work environment claim, although our investigation revealed that some of the circumstances about which the Chancellor complained are reflective of an inappropriate professional environment….

Editors note: (What happened to her prior views whereby she claimed “part of the beauty of being at a university is we have a diversity of views.”)

Second, the Chancellor implied that she was not notified by the Chair that Regent Brooks’s request to carry a concealed weapon had been approved. This complaint is disingenuous as the Chancellor had discussed the request with the Chair and then referred the request to the Chair, and the Chancellor’s office drafted the approval letter, which was sent to Regent Brooks, with a copy to the Chancellor.

In general, our investigation found insufficient evidence to support the Chancellor’s claim of a hostile work environment based on her sex. Some concerns articulated in the Complaint were contradicted by demonstrable facts. Other alleged facts, while identified as evidence of discrimination, either lacked corroboration or had insufficient corroboration from which we could conclude that the experiences the Chancellor described were as a result of her sex. The corroborated accounts that the Chancellor relied upon in the Complaint as examples of harassment, in almost every instance, had no connection to her sex and, notably, the Chancellor could not commit, during her interviews, that Chair McAdoo and Vice Carter treated her with hostility because of her sex. Rather, she said that she does not believe her male predecessors would have been similarly treated and that the pattern incidentally appears to align with her sex.”

Two weeks after the investigation was closed, Governor Steve Sisolak voiced his support for Rose on Twitter in spite of the concerning findings of the investigation.

Due to the “careless, irresponsible and biased coverage” of the events, Brooks reached out to The Globe for an on the record discussion and released the following statement:

“Chancellor Melody Rose’s allegations against me are unwarranted, atrocious, and completely disingenuous. It is shocking and inappropriate to see the managing head of our Higher Education System engage in this type of reckless behavior by way of outlandish claims.

To make matters worse, there is video evidence that proves her claims cannot be substantiated in the slightest degree. I have already asked the Board to waive privilege so that the system can release the video. If I had to guess, I believe she may have forgotten or was unaware that the Board meeting was recorded, or maybe she was counting on her ties to certain media and/or other Government officials to paint the narrative of her being a victim.

It is unfortunate that when the Nevada Independent contacted me for a comment, they decided not to heed my advice on slowing down their story until all the facts could be released. I explained that the Board of Regents had just received the final official investigation report from Fennemore Craig, and based on what I’ve read, it may be in the best interest of the Nevada Independent to refrain from blindly and irresponsibly running a story regarding the Chancellor’s claims prior to obtaining and reading the report findings for themselves. Additionally, I offered that it would behoove them to exercise some restraint on pushing out hearsay and actually do thorough due diligence prior to releasing a story.

Obviously, that fell on deaf ears and they ran a story that wasn’t based on facts as there was clearly no due diligence to determine any validity in her claims to begin with. At first, I was bewildered by what many have called a CLEAR hit piece on me, but after digging and noticing how many times the Nevada Independent has interacted with the Chancellor, I am not surprised. My word of caution as we move forward, especially regarding any news about Republican candidates in the primaries, is that you may not want to rely on the Indy for fair and balanced news or stories based on facts, as it’s been made very clear that the Indy is interested in opining and agenda-driven politics against conservatives.”

The Globe has filed an open records request for the video of the December 30th, 2021 meeting.

This is a developing story.  

Investigative Report - FINAL

 

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