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Nevada state agency posts contract information following release of audit


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau:

 In the wake of a legislative audit critical of state agency contracting practices with current and former employees, the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has posted its information online.

Bob Conrad, public information officer for the department, said the contract information was placed on the agency’s website on Dec. 29.

The audit of Nevada state agencies using current and former employees as contractors identified numerous potential concerns, including a case of one worker seeking payment for 25 hours of work in one 24-hour day and another where a former state worker is now earning $350 an hour as a contractor versus $65 an hour in his state job. This contract is still in effect and has been extended through June 30, 2011. As of September this year, the contractor has earned $472,493 from the state.

The audit information was turned over to the Nevada Attorney General for review for any potential abuses.

The Conservation and Natural Resources Department lists six current and former employees with contracts on its website, including one individual earning $150 an hour and another earning $200 an hour. An explanation for the need for each contract is included. All of the contracts have been approved by the Nevada Board of Examiners, made up of the governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

The agency’s website says the contracts fulfill specific needs that cannot be met by existing staffing levels or with current staff expertise. None of the contracts use the state general fund as a revenue source. The agency’s website also links to the actual contracts.

Conrad said the $350 an hour contract cited in the audit does not involve his agency. The information was posted to provide transparency to the public, he said.

“Our contracts are probably saving money for the state,” Conrad said. “We’re not using general funds and we think we have a good story to tell.”

The most significant contracts are for:

–          Christine Thiel, a former deputy state engineer with the Division of Water Resources who retired in 2004, is earning $150 an hour as a negotiator for the Truckee River Operating Agreement in northern Nevada. She earned $12,712 in fiscal year 2008 and $15,150 in fiscal year 2009.

–          Roland Westergard, a former state engineer with the Division of Water Resources who retired in 1990. He too is employed as a negotiator for the Truckee River Operating Agreement. He initially earned $150 an hour but saw an increase to $200 an hour starting in September 2009. He earned $19,233 in 2008 and $28,928 in 2009.

The legislative audit discussed Dec. 8 identified 14 state agencies contracting with 51 current or former employees who were performing similar duties to their current or former job descriptions at a total cost of $2.3 million in fiscal years 2008 and 2009. Two such contracts were identified for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Andrew Clinger, director of the Department of Administration, acknowledged the audit raised concerns about the use of the contracting process by state agencies. He is working with a group of administrators and others to bring forward reforms to the process to the Board of Examiners by February

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