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A review of the state university system’s employment guidelines finds that UMA’s presidential application violates rules

A review of the state university system’s employment guidelines finds that UMA’s presidential application violates rules

Officials violated University of Maine System guidelines by failing to consult with Human Resources on whether to hire Michael Laliberte as University of Maine at Augusta president after finding out he had received no-confidence votes at his former university, according to an internal review. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal file

The recent unsuccessful presidential election at the University of Maine in Augusta broke a policy that requires negative information about candidates to be discussed with Human Resources before hiring decisions, according to an internal review by the state university system.

Chancellor Dannel Malloy ordered the review on May 12 after news reports revealed that he and the head of the search committee did not disclose information that Michael Laliberte, who had just been hired as UMA president, received mistrust votes from faculty and students from his former university. The review was to take place on 13 June and a draft of the document was published on Tuesday in the agenda for the University of Maine Systems’ board meeting scheduled for Monday 11 July.

The specific policy the UMA search broke with was adopted about a decade ago as part of the shop stewards’ “work background and screening policy.”

The report does not attribute specific blame for who was to blame for failing to disclose the information, other than to say that the “hiring or hiring department” should have consulted with the university’s personnel office on the matter.

Laliberte received two no-confidence votes from his former employer, State University of New York in Delhi, which Storbeck Search CEO Jim Sirianni found while reviewing his application. Sirianni told Malloy and the chairman of the search committee Sven Bartholomew, but not the rest of the search committee of 14 members. It was up to Malloy and Bartholomew to decide whether to share the information with the entire committee, Storbeck officials have maintained.

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At Per Malloy’s request, the guidelines for hiring were reviewed by the Human Resources Office in consultation with the University of Maine System General Counsel Office and in analysis with the Employee Handbook, UMS Board of Trustee policies, UMS Administrative Practice Letters contracts, and to ensure compliance with Maine the law.

The review of the applications said that the guidelines in the future must ensure that the applications are administered with integrity, that best practices are followed and that all relevant information is made available to those who assess and recommend the candidates for employment.

For the next system searches, the Human Resource Office and the General Council proposed the following changes, in draft form, for the board of trustees to consider:

• General Counsel and Human Resources should be involved in the next searches – UMS management search policy does not currently include the offices.

• The employee handbook should be distributed to all employees during onboarding and when policies are reviewed and updated. The employee must sign a confirmation that they have read the guidelines and the manual.

• All manager searches and other job searches must comply with the board’s guidelines 415 – the guidelines the UMA search did not meet. In addition, applicants must submit answers to relevant questions regarding previous investigations into sexual harassment, non-violent or violent abuse, or other ill-treatment.

Candidate names will be announced when they are in the final phase of the hiring process.

• The application committee will have an open forum with faculty, staff and students, and they will all have the opportunity to submit follow-up questions and comments.

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• Search policies for presidents and pro positions will require candidates to reveal whether they were the subject of a no-confidence vote.

• A formal request to revise the candidate and the recruitment process will be made at the meeting on 11 July.

The document also listed the companies that were used for previous candidate searches. They are the following;

• Academic Search for University of Southern Maine President Search (October 2021, completed),

• Storbeck Search for University of Maine by Augusta President Search (October 2021, completed), University of Maine Dean by College of Engineering, Information & Computer Science (February
2022, ongoing) and University of Maine Vice President of Finance and Administration and CBO (February 2022, ongoing).

• Interim Senior Level Positions for Betsy Sawhill-Espe as University of Maine at Presque Isle Interim CBO (November 2020, completed), Buster Neel as Interim University of Maine at Augusta CBO and formerly at USM (May 2020, completed) Joanne Yestramski as Interim University of Maine CBO & VP of Finance (November 2020, completed), David Tracy as Interim University of Maine in Fort Kent Dean of Enrollment UMFK (January 2022, completed), King Godwin as Interim University of Maine in Fort Kent Dean for Art, Science and Professional Studies (January 2022, completed).

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