Michael R. Laliberte, left, who was to become the president of the University of Maine at Augusta, shakes hands with Dannel P. Malloy, chancellor of the University of Maine System. Laliberte, who withdrew before working his first day, is currently being paid nearly $20,000 a month from the university system.  Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA – Failed University of Maine at Augusta president Michael Laliberte has been doing academic consultancy work for free over the past year while receiving monthly payments of nearly $20,000 from the state university system for continuing to be jobless.

The situation has raised questions about whether Laliberte is acting in good faith to meet the terms of a settlement with the University of Maine System after he agreed last year to withdraw from the job amid criticism about his past experience.

Contacted by the Kennebec Journal earlier this month about Laliberte listing consultancy work on his public LinkedIn profile, system officials said the work is pro bono, not paid, and will be included in Laliberte’s next report on his efforts to find a job, which he is required to submit in order to receive the payouts.

The settlement specifically lists business or higher education consultancy work as one of the paid jobs Laliberte should pursue.

University officials assert that Laliberte has acted appropriately while continuing to deny the newspaper’s public records requests for his written job updates. Experts say these documents are important to ensure accountability and should be released.

Some faculty members said they are disappointed in the continued lack of transparency from the university system and that it’s not fair to the state’s students, faculty and taxpayers to be anything but transparent.


Elizabeth Powers, an associate professor of English at UMA, called the situation disappointing, especially after the faculty senate took a vote of no confidence against Chancellor Dannel Malloy last year in the aftermath of Laliberte’s failed presidency.

“It continues to be a disappointment of the chancellor’s office and Board of Trustees — not being transparent,” Powers said. “And they continue to speak condescendingly to us about the business of higher education, and this shows they are not the business savvy they sometimes foster.”

As Laliberte rakes in a presidential salary, the state university system is paying $280,000 yearly to the newly hired UMA president, Jenifer Cushman. The seven-school system is also grappling with a $10 million budget shortfall from declining enrollment at several campuses, Maine Public recently reported. 

Laliberte withdrew without working a day in Augusta after the hiring committee and chancellor received widespread backlash, including from legislators, for not sharing that he had received no-confidence votes from faculty at his former university over his ability to manage budgets, his lack of transparency, his enablement of a “culture of disrespect and hostility” and several other issues.

Under the settlement, the UMaine System agreed to pay Laliberte $235,000 a year, per his original three-year contract, until 2025. The payments — which are monthly as of July — would stop if he found a job with a higher salary. If he finds a lower-paying job, UMaine is obligated to pay Laliberte the difference.

To date, Maine’s state university system has paid him a total of $274,166. He is set to receive another $19,583 on Friday.



The Kennebec Journal has filed multiple Freedom of Access Act requests to obtain documentation of Laliberte’s “good faith earnest efforts to seek gainful employment,” which the settlement charges him with finding “as soon as reasonably possible.”

General Counsel Paul Chan denied the newspaper’s requests, saying the information is not public because it “is not related to the transaction of public or governmental business.”

Even if the records were public, Chan wrote, they would be shielded because they contain confidential personnel information. He declined to provide redacted copies of the documents that remove sensitive information.

“UMS believes that, to date, Dr. Laliberte has diligently fulfilled this responsibility under the agreement. He has provided detailed, regular reports of his efforts to seek and attain gainful employment,” spokesperson Tory Ryden said in a statement to the Kennebec Journal after the initial records denial.

University officials would not say when they became aware of Laliberte’s academic consulting work, which he posted on his public LinkedIn profile.


His LinkedIn profile was deleted after a reporter began asking about it.

A screenshot of the consultancy work posted on Michael Laliberte’s public LinkedIn profile as seen in early August. The profile was deleted after a reporter began asking about it. University of Maine System officials said Laliberte has been doing the work pro bono, without pay. Screenshot via LinkedIn

The consultancy work has “no impact on the contractual agreement,” Ryden said.

“Since you brought it up, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to showcase his willingness to be of service – plus his intention of staying active as he seeks employment,” Ryden added.

According to Ryden, Laliberte said he would not reply to media requests and referred to the university system for comment.


Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said Laliberte’s job updates should be public. 


“They directly relate to a settlement agreement that has already been disclosed and they would allow us to make sure that agreement is being followed,” Silverman said.

The settlement also states Laliberte is not a current or former employee, he said.

“It’s not clear how a non-employee could be considered personnel under (Maine’s Freedom of Access Act), but even if that exemption applies the state is still obligated to at least provide the reports in redacted form,” he said. “An outright denial of these reports is an unreasonable if not incorrect interpretation of the public records law.” 

The dates Laliberte applied for a job or submitted an update are examples of information that could be released, according to Silverman.

Powers, the associate professor of English at UMA, said she doesn’t understand why the university is being so “opaque” about the settlement details.

“It’s hard to tell from my little bubble if it’s incompetence or a blatant disregard to Maine students, faculty and taxpayers,” she said. 


Pete Milligan, a professor of biology, said that he would like to see the UMaine System focus on transparency rather than “controlling the information flow.” 

“It’s important in a public institution to maintain the trust of not only the employees that work there, but the taxpayers and constituents that support it,” he said.  

Contacted earlier this month by the Kennebec Journal about the university refusing to release Laliberte’s job reports, board of trustees Chair Trish Riley said she would consult the general counsel about the matter. She did not send an update on that effort, including after a request for comment on Wednesday.


Judith Wilde, a professor at George Mason University who has studied payouts to failed presidents dating to the 1980s, said there are multiple ways to interpret Laliberte’s consultancy work in the context of the agreement.

“Did he do it as pro bono work in order (to) circumvent the agreement?” she said. “On the other hand, would the pay have been so low that it was inconsequential in the overall picture?”


Wilde defines a “failed president” as one who serves less than 2 1/2 years or does not complete the full length of their first contract.

She said she thought a list of positions Laliberte has applied for, even if redacted, should be publicly available but that university officials often shield these types of records as confidential personnel files.

UMaine’s settlement with Laliberte is “not horrible” compared to those of other failed presidents, but is not “best practice,” either, according to Wilde.

“By national standards, Laliberte’s salary was quite low,” she said. The average base salary for the president of a public flagship university was $602,000 in 2019. Wilde, noting that flagship colleges are bigger, generally more well-funded schools than UMA, said the base salary for such institutions has increased to about $1 million now becoming the standard.

While Laliberte is receiving the full salary he would have been paid as president, it’s good that the agreement doesn’t also include the cost of benefits such as health care, she said. It’s also good that UMS decided to decrease what it gives him based on the amount he earns at a new job.

In one of the most egregious deals Wilde has studied, officials at Auburn University in Alabama agreed to pay $4.5 million to former president Steven Leath, who served for less than two years. The payout was close to the full value of his contract had he completed the term, despite provisions limiting what he could walk away with to about $1.875 million, she said. His payout appeared to cover a lost sabbatical and retirement savings and did not lessen if he received another job.

Wilde said it was “interesting” that Laliberte is not required to look for jobs outside academia. But ultimately, the confidential search process is to blame for the university being on the hook for up to $775,000, she said. That sum includes a payment to the search firm that found Laliberte.

“The fault goes back to the board chair and search firm personnel deciding not to share information about Laliberte’s past as a president (though the latter denies this),” Wilde said.

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