AUGUSTA — The leader of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine union said Tuesday morning the legitimacy of the University of Maine at Augusta presidential search was “destroyed” by the chair of the search committee in a letter to union members.

The letter came after news reports that the newly hired president the University of Maine at Augusta, Michael Laliberte, received two votes of no confidence from his former university, State University of New York at Delhi, and was asked to resign by the school’s faculty senate. Storbeck Search — the consulting firm in charge of finding candidates for UMA — and the University of Maine System’s chancellor, Dannel Malloy, knew about at least one of the no-confidence votes.

The pair shared the information with the search committee’s chair, Trustee Sven Bartholomew, who did not disclose it to the other 13 members of the committee.

 

In Tuesday’s letter, Associated Faculties of the University of Maine union President Jim McClymer said in failing to tell the search committee all of the facts about the candidates, “the system and leadership abused the search process.” 

“They abused members of the committee who contributed in good faith to what they thought was an honest process; they abused the trust of all members of the UMA community who trusted in an honest search process,” McClymer wrote. 

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Malloy, Laliberte and Vice Chancellor Jim Thelen plan to discuss concerns around the UMA presidential search Wednesday at the school’s faculty senate meeting, according to Margaret Nagle, spokesperson for the University of Maine System.

Faculty members at the University of Maine at Augusta found out about the two votes of no confidence last week, not from the University of Maine System, but from their own research and an article published in the Daily Star of Oneonta, New York

A SUNY Delhi faculty member presented a letter containing 13 reasons why they voted “no confidence” in Laliberte. It was signed by 100 members, or nearly 20%, of faculty. The claims ranged from Laliberte “showing an inconsistent commitment to shared governance and transparency,” to creating budgetary mishaps and running a leadership team that has “enabled a culture of disrespect and hostility.”

By knowing the information but not telling the search committee, McClymer said Bartholomew “violated the Code of Ethics in failing to inform the Search Committee of the two votes of no confidence.” 

All members of the search committee had to sign and adhere to a code of ethics written by Storbeck Search, which was paid $70,000 for finding UMA’s presidential candidates. Storbeck Search heads candidate searches for universities and colleges across the country and recently was said to have botched searches at the University of Wisconsin and at the University of Colorado.

McClymer argued that all candidates have baggage, but the full committee should have had the chance to decide if it thought the vote of no confidence was important enough to consider in its decision.

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For future searches, the faculty union is calling for committee members to have the ability to share the information they find with the search committee, since the chair did not do so.

Nagle, spokesperson for the University of Maine System, said that one member of the committee found out about a no-confidence vote against Laliberte, but the University of Maine System has not revealed that person’s identity.  

Per the code of ethics, search committee members were asked to “bring reports of concern on candidates to the chair in order to allow for checks on their accuracy before sharing widely.”

It is unclear whether the individual brought up the concern with Bartholomew. Bartholomew declined to comment on the issue, instead referring back to Nagle.

“Trustee Bartholomew did not intentionally withhold any information related to the SUNY Delhi College Senate vote of no confidence from the UMA presidential search committee,” Nagle said in a statement on behalf of Bartholomew. “That information was shared with Trustee Bartholomew and Chancellor Malloy in confidence by Storbeck Search Managing Director Sirianni, and based on Sirianni’s guidance, it was understood that it was up to Sirianni or the candidate to bring the matter to the attention of the full search committee.

“Like UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy, Trustee Bartholomew regrets that the information was not shared with the full search committee and believes that it should have been,” she said.

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Sirianni told the Kennebec Journal in a statement that “our role as search consultants is to advise the Chair of the Search Committee who in turn establishes the process and communications throughout the engagement.” He declined to discuss the issue further, saying that “as a matter of practice, we don’t discuss Search Committee deliberations to protect client and candidate confidentiality.”

Malloy previously said Storbeck’s reference checks of Laliberte and his own review “confirmed that the SUNY administration carefully investigated the faculty claims against President Laliberte and found them to be without merit.” SUNY Chancellor Deborah Stanley has not responded for comment or answered requests to provide documentation of SUNY’s findings.

Though prompted by the controversy surrounding Laliberte, Tuesday’s letter contained a handful of other asks from the University of Maine faculty union that reveal distrust in leadership. Some of the concerns highlighted were around health insurance for retirees of the system, to which Nagle responded Tuesday that there are “no remaining pending disputes on the matter.”

“The people involved in these bad decisions do not set out to make bad decisions,” McClymer wrote in the letter. “I surmise they are arrogant and can’t imagine that an informed faculty could possibility contribute to success.  These continued failures damage the System.” 

The UMA search committee included Bartholomew; two other trustees, Emily Cain and Peggy Rotundo; two UMA professors, Susan Baker and Matt Dube; Regional Director of UMA Centers Jim Bradley; Heidi Reinhard, administrative specialist at UMA; UMA Associate Provost Brenda McAleer; UMA Vice Chair of Board of Visitors Craig Larrabee; UMA Alumni Representative Dianne Chicoine; Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Success and Credential Attainment Rosa Redonnett; and two UMA students, Mohamed Khalid and Kristen Cartier.

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