Against the backdrop of a newly filed federal lawsuit protesting its selection process, overwhelming public comment supporting the unsuccessful applicant, and intervention from Gov. Steve Sisolak, Nevada Workforce Connections on Thursday awarded $10 million in federal workforce development funds, to ResCare, a for-profit national corporation. The move guts funding for Nevada Partners, Culinary Local 226’s job training and development non-profit.
“The lawsuit itself is a 40-page document and I would implore you, if you haven’t had your legal counsel do a review, and give you a risk analysis, not only to this grant cycle but to the opportunity to continue to administer these funds, you should do that before you vote,” Nevada Partners board chair Uri Clinton warned members of the Workforce Connections board, which is made up of elected officials and business representatives. “You guys are the check. You are not required to simply rubber stamp a recommendation.”
“The idea that we would have a federal lawsuit pending is probably a first for this organization,” Clinton said during public comment, alleging the RFP process employed by Workforce Connections violates federal regulation.
“When I found out about Nevada Partners nine years ago I was coming out of a 30-year crack addiction, four years in prison, 376 arrests on my record, no teeth in my mouth,” Sharon Raab, a former client of Nevada Partners, told board members. “I didn’t have nowhere to go, nobody to turn to. I was born and raised right there on the other side of the wall of Nevada Partners. I remember times turning tricks in that parking lot. But today I walk in the door as a professional.”
Raab has remained sober for ten years and is working toward a degree in social work. Hers was one of many success stories relayed to board members.
“To take the funding that could go to organizations that could touch our people every day and put it in the hands of a national organization that is already not doing a good job in other places is disappointing to me,” said Cameron Miller. “It makes me wonder whose bad idea was this or who’s getting a kickback, just to be honest. And I don’t mean that in disrespect.”
“That is very disrespectful,” interrupted Valerie Murzl of Station Casinos, who serves as board chair.
“My apologies, I did not accuse you of anything specifically,” Miller replied. “This organization does not have a foundation or a foothold in Nevada. They’ve been here for what, a year?”
Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore said that when a person accuses a spouse of cheating, the accuser is usually the guilty party.
“When someone accuses someone of a kickback, I’m just wondering if it’s on the other side,” Fiore said.
Before voting, the board heard from its attorney, who suggested a letter from Sisolak, who asked the board last month to hold off on the selections pending a review by his office, alleviated concerns about the RFP process.
But a copy of the letter obtained by the Current indicates the governor remains concerned.
“Despite the absence of actionable adverse findings at this stage, I am, however concerned that the substantial changes to the 2018-2019 RFP process (including the elimination of the interview process, changes to the consideration of past performance, and the requirement of a 2% cash match for applicants) and the recommendation to distribute the bulk of the available funds to one entity may have created a perception of favoritism toward a for-profit corporation that is not headquartered in Nevada,” Sisolak wrote in his May 9 letter to the board, suggesting Workforce Connections “consider working with all local stakeholders to improve the RFP process to ensure transparent and unbiased distribution of this critical federal funding.”
ResCare executive Joe Sharpe told the board that he and his company’s 33 employees in Las Vegas are, indeed, Nevadans. Sharpe later told the Current he’s been in the state for a year.