'Critical shortage' of critical thinking

Interestingly, it is three highly paid state administrators to be among the first to benefit from Nevada's new employee "critical shortage" law.

This law allows certain employees within the state retirement system to receive their retirement benefits while still working within the system.

In July, before the governor's signature of approval on Assembly Bill 555 was barely dry, the state Board of Examiners (comprised of Gov. Guinn, Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa and Secretary of State Dean Heller) gave their blessing to requests from Nevada's Public Safety Director Richard Kirkland and two of his top administrators to receive full retirement benefits in addition to their current salaries. In Kirkland's case, this adds $70,000 to his $103,000 annual salary.

The board apparently felt there is a critical shortage of such qualified administrators.

More in line with the intent of the law, the "critical shortage" status was also approved for a parole board position, capital police officers and parole and probation officers.

Originally intended to keep veteran teachers from leaving and bring teachers of subjects where there is a severe shortage (math, science, special education) out of retirement and back into the classroom, AB555 was then expanded to also address "critical labor shortages" in state and local government, the judicial branch and the state university system.

The Board of Examiners is responsible for designating positions within state government qualifying as "critical labor shortages;" the Supreme Court will decide within the judicial branch; the Board of Regents within the state college system; Department of Education within the various school districts; local supervisors/commissioners within local government; and the Retirement Board for shortages within the system.

I fully support the initial intent of the legislation. Many of our brightest and best educators retire early in order to receive their excellent state retirement benefits along with a full salary from the private sector. Encouraging qualified older teachers to remain and retired teachers to return to the classroom helps alleviate critical shortages and brings invaluable experience and expertise back into our schools. Losing our best teachers to the private sector is a trend that must be curbed.

And I will guarantee you that none of these teachers will be making anything near a $100,000 salary in addition to their retirement benefit.

In light of the public's negative response to their approval of Kirkland's, his chief deputy Dave Kieckbusch's and Administrative Service Officer Jan Capaldi's bonuses, the Board of Examiners have turned down additional requests from other governmental administrators. It should remain a permanent moratorium.

These bonuses to individuals in such lofty appointive positions should never have been granted in the first place and none should be granted in the future. Not only does it smack of political favoritism, but allowing such highly paid individuals to "double-dip" from the public trough laughs in the face of the intent of the law.

This law was well intended, but, as evidenced by the Kirkland, Kieckbusch and Capaldi windfall, in its current form it leaves the door wide open to the potential for some interesting political and financial wizardry. Before one more position is declared eligible for "critical shortage" benefits, this legislation must be thoroughly reviewed by our state legislators.

And such benefits to highly paid state administrators should be eliminated, retroactively.

Think about it.


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