University of Nebraska Board of Regents chairman Tim Clare stepped down from his position on the Bo Pelini Foundation's board on Friday, saying he was afraid his participation in the charity would become a distraction.
Clare has been a pro bono lawyer for the board founded by the Husker football coach since 2008, when he won an elected position as an NU regent. He has been listed as secretary on the nonprofit's tax returns since 2010.
The resignation came a day after Clare was interviewed about his board service by the World-Herald, when he said he was not aware he was a board member at all.
“I thought I was just a lawyer for the board,” Clare said Thursday.
On Friday, he resigned his position with the charity and will no longer do its legal work. He does not believe his involvement was in conflict with his work on the Board of Regents, the university system's governing and policy setting body, but he said leaving was the “easiest and cleanest thing to do.”
“The foundation is doing such great work in benefiting so many people that I don't want to have this be a distraction for them,” Clare said.
Clare said Pelini asked him to help in 2008 after the nonprofit's first lawyer moved out of town. Others on the board include Pelini's wife, Mary Pat Pelini; assistant athletic director for football Jeff Jamrog; and Husker athletics communications director Chris Anderson.
Jamrog's wife, Connie Jamrog, was the foundation's executive director but that position is now vacant, Anderson said.
Clare's law firm prepared the corporate minutes for $50 annually and assisted with tax filings for the foundation, which raises money for children's charities and breast cancer, he said. Getting involved was rewarding for Clare because he said he lost an aunt to breast cancer.
Clare also helped Pelini's father establish the Ron Stoops/Anthony Pelini Foundation and is listed as its registered agent on state filings. He said his work there was also routine paperwork.
Records show that his service with Pelini's charity was not included on his financial interest statements filed each year with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, which requires both paid and unpaid board positions to be reported. Clare said he wasn't trying to hide it, and his fellow regents know of his involvement. He just didn't consider himself a board member, he said. He amended the forms after speaking with the World-Herald.
Potential conflicts arise and require specific disclosure to the state when a vote or decision is possible, said Frank Daley, the executive director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.
“You have a conflict of interest if you are faced with taking an official action or making an official decision which could result in a financial benefit or a financial detriment to you the official, a member of your immediate family, or a business with which you're associated,” said Daley, who was speaking generally about all elected officials.
Clare never filed a form, and the board of regents has not considered any matters related to Pelini's charity. Clare recuses himself whenever Pelini's name comes up because the two are friends, he said.
Though hiring and firing of athletic staff falls under the campus athletic directors, the board of regents is required to accept the head football coach's contract.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Connie Jamrog as the executive director of the Bo Pelini Foundation.