RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — There are growing questions about whether the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners is following the law when it comes to the salary of its own executive director.
The issue first came to light in 2018 when a state audit found Executive Director Ed Cousineau earned $19,000 dollars more than is allowed under state law the previous year.
The audit stated his salary to be $161,491.
The Nevada Attorney General's Office confirmed to News 4 that state employees are only allowed to earn 95 percent of what the Governor earns in any given year.
The A.G.'s office issued an opinion reaffirming that law in 2019.
So did anything change after that audit?
The President of the Medical Board, Dr. Aury Nagy, insists the executive director's salary is now under the state's cap.
"My understanding is we are in compliance." he said.
But our investigation shows the executive director's salary exceeded that 95 percent figure for five straight years starting in 2017.
Based on numbers from Transparent Nevada, which compiles information on state workers' earnings, the Medical Board director's salary was $3,000 over the cap in 2021, $5,000 over in 2020, $8,000 over in 2019 and $5,000 over what the law allows in 2018.
All of that after the audit uncovered the problem initially, showing Cousineau's salary was $19,000 over the cap in 2017.
When we asked the executive director whether his own salary is legal, he declined to comment.
We also reached out to the Governor's office about this, eight times since February. But Governor Lombardo has declined to answer our questions and won't weigh in on this issue.
The person with direct oversight is Medical Board President Dr. Aury Nagy. He was willing to weigh in and told us the board is committed to finding out if they're following the law.
"100 percent is the requirement that we comply with the law," he told us. "That is our mission and to the extent that there's a belief that we're not , we have to get to the bottom of why that is. If we're actually not then changes have to be made."
Something else caught our eye with that audit. The salary spelled out in the Governor's report ($161,491) is $20,000 higher than what the Medical Board claims.
RELATED | Some Nevada Medical Board investigations dragging on for seven years, records show
The Medical Board's figure put the executive director's salary under the cap, just barely.
The Governor's Finance Office, which conducted the audit, says they stand by their findings.
But the bigger question may be whether the Medical Board is providing accurate records to the public.
The Board President promised to find out when we questioned him about the difference between what the audit found and what the Medical Board claims to be the truth.
We asked specifically why there is a $20,000 discrepancy.
"I appreciate you bringing that to my attention," he said. "If I'm getting different information than you have that needs to be resolved."
RELATED | Patients wait years for Nevada Medical Board to investigate complaints, state audit shows
Update: We've been asking about this issue for months. Just before our story was set to air on May 16th we did get a response from the Medical Board saying the salaries that the Governor's Finance Office used in its audit in 2018 were converted to a specific version of the state retirement plan known as "PERS" for comparison purposes. The Medical Board now says it's director's gross salary is lower than what the audit reported because he is in a different PERS plan.
But again the Governor's Finance Office says they stand by their findings.
We'll wait to find out what the Medical Board says about the director's salary in those other years, 2018-2021.