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UMA presidential search renewed as UMaine System seeks firm to find candidates by March

The University of Maine System used Pennsylvania-based Storbeck Search to find Michael R. Laliberte, who withdrew his position and received a large payout after disclosure of no-confidence votes from faculty members at a public university in New York.

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The Randall Student Center at the University of Maine at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — A renewed search for the next president of the University of Maine at Augusta has begun, with University of Maine System officials releasing a request for proposal this week seeking a firm to find candidates by March.

The request for proposal, or RFP, seeks a firm that will follow a set of guidelines that includes “extensive background and reference checks” and being “forthcoming and provide complete information on all candidates to the search committee.”

The RFP comes months after a failed search process, spearheaded by Pennsylvania-based Storbeck Search, resulted in the hiring of Michael R. Laliberte, who was later revealed to have been the subject of two votes of no confidence when he was president of the State University of New York at Delhi.

UMaine System officials claimed Storbeck Search did not fully disclose Laliberte’s controversial background to the UMA presidential search committee, although UMaine System Chancellor Dannel P. Malloy later said he aware, but did not think the votes were credible.

The resulting uproar among UMA faculty members resulted in Laliberte’s withdrawing from the position and receiving a payout that is to cost the university $235,000 a year for three years. The UMaine System paid $70,000 to Storbeck Search.

Malloy said in a comprehensive review of the UMA presidential search that all future external searches would be handled “with integrity” and “best practices,” and that “all relevant application information is made available to those hiring and recommending the candidates for hire.”


The RFP released Monday on the University of Maine System’s website seeks a search firm that will identify candidates for the UMA presidency and implement increased transparency requested by UMA faculty members, students and administrators after the last search.

Search firm will be assessed based on a 100-point scale measuring each firm’s answers to questions from the UMaine System.

UMaine System officials seek to have all proposals in by Oct. 21. System officials said they plan to announce the winning search firm by Nov. 4, with a start date of Nov. 9.

A sign at the University of Maine at Augusta’s main campus. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The candidates for UMA president would apply through the search firm, after which the firm would vet the strongest candidates and then present those candidates’ names and credentials to the UMA presidential search committee.

Sven Bartholomew, a member of the UMaine System board of trustees, led the last search committee that resulted in Laliberte’s hiring. The search committee this time is to be led by Roger Katz, also a member of the UMaine System board of trustees and a former state senator and former mayor of Augusta.

Margaret Nagle, spokesperson for the UMaine System, said Katz hopes to have the first committee meeting in mid-October. Other members of the UMA presidential search committee are still being named.

Malloy knew about Laliberte’s votes of no confidence in New York, as did Storbeck Search and Bartholomew, but did not share the information with the rest of the UMA presidential search committee, which included other trustees, faculty members and students.

Joseph S. Szakas has stepped in for the second year to serve as interim president of UMA after Rebecca M. Wyke stepped down in July 2021.

Firms used for the past candidate searches include the following, according to the comprehensive review from July:

• Academic Search for the University of Southern Maine president (begun in October 2021 and now completed).

• Storbeck Search for the UMA president (begun in October 2021 and ended after the failed hire of Laliberte); University of Maine dean of the college of engineering, information and computer science (begun in February and still underway); and UMaine vice president of finance and administration and chief business officer (begun in February and still underway).

• The Registry to find Betsy Sawhill-Espe as the University of Maine at Presque Isle interim chief business officer (begun in November 2020 and now completed); Buster Neel as UMA interim chief business officer, previously at USM (begun in May 2020 and now completed); Joanne Yestramski as UMaine interim chief business officer and vice president of finance (begun in November 2020 and now completed); David Tracy as University of Maine at Fort Kent interim dean of enrollment (begun in January and now completed); King Godwin as UMaine Fort Kent interim dean of arts, sciences and professional studies (begun in January and now completed).

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