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Private Sector Calls on Official

12 September 2006

By Lawrence Mower and K.C. Howard

NEVADA -- After 3 1/2 weeks in charge of the Nevada university system's fledgling health sciences center, former Clark County manager Thom Reilly is resigning to take a half-million-dollar job with Harrah's Entertainment.

Reilly left his county post and began Aug. 17 as the vice chancellor and chief operating officer of the University of Nevada Health Sciences Center.

He said Monday he has resigned effective Sept. 22 to assume the role of vice president of community reinvestment and social responsibility for the casino corporation. The new job will pay roughly double the $250,000 annual salary the university system was paying him, Chancellor Jim Rogers said.

Reilly said he will continue to be president of the new health sciences center's foundation board, a voluntary position, as it creates its bylaws and raises money for the center.

"I'm going to remain involved in the foundation and other aspects, and I'm going to continue to be an enthusiastic supporter of the health sciences center," Reilly said.

Harrah's approached Reilly about the job within the past two weeks, he said. He accepted Friday. "I wish it would have come up earlier," he said.

Rogers said Reilly talked to him Friday about leaving the job. "I was surprised and disappointed," Rogers said.

He said the Nevada System of Higher Education could not compete with what Harrah's Entertainment was offering.

"He described the financial package," Rogers said. "(It was) pretty much double what we're doing."

Reilly and officials at Harrah's Entertainment would not comment on his salary.

He will oversee the company's philanthropic efforts, including the Harrah's Foundation, a nonprofit group that donates to charities in the 13 states where the company operates.

"It kind of combines some really important aspects of my background, understanding government as well as social services programs and kind of mixes the two together," said Reilly, who has held administrative positions in the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services and the Nevada State Welfare Division. "Plus it gives me a national experience."

"I'm very, very happy for Thom," Regent Steve Sisolak said. "At the same time, his shoes are going to be next to impossible to fill."

Regent Howard Rosenberg, who voted against Reilly's hiring because no job description for his new position existed, said Reilly was right to accept the new job if it was a step up for him.

"I'm disappointed, even though we didn't exactly know what the hell he was going to do (in the university job)," Rosenberg said.

Rogers chose Reilly for the position without a search or a job description in place.

About a month after they hired Reilly, regents approved a document defining the role of the new position. It was focused on the planning of the health sciences center, which involved managing the units inside the center, planning for growth and developing curriculum and research initiatives.

Reilly has not held the job long enough for his departure to affect progress on the health sciences proposal, medical school officials said.

"We've been working on this project for a couple of years, and we've done a huge amount of background work and planning. Thom was really just getting up to speed, and he's done that very capably and admirably, but he was just getting started," said John McDonald, dean of the medical school. "I don't foresee this being anything but a little tiny hiccup."

He said Nevada System of Higher Education officials are prepared to defend their more than $217 million proposal to the Legislature next session.

Rogers said he did not have anybody in mind to replace Reilly and would start a national search for a replacement. He said he plans to have somebody hired for the job within three months.

The replacement would not be granted Reilly's $250,000 salary if the replacement does not match Reilly's qualifications, Rogers said.

"If you've got somebody who's young and starting out, and if they're not local, they're not going to have Thom's qualifications," he said.

Rogers said he and the university system's chief external relations officer, Marcia Turner, would take over Reilly's post. Turner, who previously worked at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will keep her $165,000 a year salary.

Reilly, who holds a doctorate in public administration, hopes to continue teaching at UNLV. He teaches one course per semester on public administration.

Reilly said his Harrah's job might require him to go before the Clark County Commission, but a county ethics provision prohibits him from doing business with the commission until one year has passed since his county employment.

Review-Journal writer Howard Stutz contributed to this report.

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