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FBI questions Nevada college employee.

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The FBI has interviewed a Community College of Southern Nevada employee in an investigation of corruption allegations and ties with a state lawmaker, officials said.

Topazia "Briget" Jones, a college clerk and former aide to Assemblyman Wendell Williams, D-Las Vegas, was questioned by agents, FBI spokesman Todd Palmer said. Palmer said he could not discuss details of the case.

Lawrence Semenza, a lawyer representing Jones and Williams, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Jones was asked about her work at the college and about $49,900 the state university system paid last year to settle a bias claim by Williams' wife.

Semenza said Jones was a witness, not a target of the investigation.

The lawyer said the FBI agents asked about former CCSN President Ron Remington and former college lobbyist John Cummings and their efforts to establish four-year degree programs at the college.

Jones, Williams, Remington and Cummings were the focus of a college investigation last year that led to the demotions of Remington and Cummings.

Part of that inquiry, by private investigator Jeff Cohen, centered on the settlement paid by the University and CCSN to Zelda Williams during the 2003 Legislature.

Zelda Williams had claimed a CCSN official used a racial slur about her in 2001.

Against the advice of the system's chief attorney, then-Chancellor Jane Nichols authorized paying Zelda Williams just under $50,000--the threshold that would have required public discussion and approval by the state Board of Examiners. The settlement did not require Board of Regents approval.

Nichols and Remington supported the payment, which came while the Legislature debated record tax increases to fund programs including the state's higher-education budget.

Wendell Williams chaired the Assembly Education Committee, which oversees the state's public higher-education system. He denied benefitting from the payment to his wife.

Cohen investigated whether there was a link between the payment and legislation that Williams, Remington, Cummings and Jones were pursuing to create four-year degree programs at the community college in Las Vegas.

The legislation would have put programs on a site in North Las Vegas, possibly administered by Jones.

Remington, whose November demotion by university regents was nullified last month by a Clark County District Court judge, told the Review-Journal that he was unaware of the federal investigation.

Cummings said federal investigators have not contacted him. Attempts to reach Jones, and Wendell Williams and Ray were unsuccessful.

Cummings has acknowledged hiring Jones in January 2003, on Williams' recommendation, as a $21,000-per-year clerical trainee. Shortly afterward, Jones made trips to the Legislature in Carson City as Williams' assistant.

Nichols intervened when Jones' college supervisors moved to fire her, granting Jones whistle-blower status. Jones accused supervisors including Cummings and Remington of wrongdoing.

Cohen's 1,026-page report, given to regents in November, cast the college as a place where Democratic legislators, associates and friends were provided jobs.
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Title Annotation:Federal Bureau of Investigation
Publication:Community College Week
Geographic Code:1U8NV
Date:Jul 19, 2004
Words:474
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