Dannel Malloy, chancellor of the University of Maine System, last year bungled the hiring of a new president for University of Maine at Augusta through a lack of transparency. He lost the trust of faculty and staff at the school, and cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And now Malloy, and other leaders at UMS, are doing the same thing.

More than a year after Michael Laliberte stepped down from the UMA presidency without so much as working a day, and with a settlement that has paid him nearly $300,000 so far, the University of Maine System refuses to release documentation showing that Laliberte is following the rules of the contract.

The settlement was necessary because Malloy and another member of the hiring committee, Sven Bartholomew, then a member of the UMS board of trustees, failed to inform others about problems Laliberte had in his previous position as a president of a university in New York.

The news infuriated members of the university community, leading faculty and staff to take a no-confidence vote in Malloy’s leadership, and ended Laliberte’s tenure before it began. Instead, he was given a settlement — one which agreed to pay him his original three-year contract if he couldn’t find work.

Under the terms of the settlement, Laliberte is obligated to look for gainful employment. But if he makes less than his UMA contract lays out, then the UMaine System must pick up the difference until 2025. Last Friday, he was set to receive a check from UMaine for $19,583, on top of the $274,166 the system has paid him so far.


It does not appear that Laliberte has found paying work. But he has been doing academic consulting for free over the past year, raising legitimate questions about whether he has made “good faith earnest efforts to seek gainful employment … as soon as reasonably possible” as is required in the settlement, which lists business or higher education consultancy as an example of the jobs Laliberte should pursue.

The UMA community deserves to know whether the settlement is being followed, and after all the distrust generated by the hiring debacle, it’s troubling that university leadership is not being as forthright and transparent as possible.

The University of Maine System refuses to release even heavily redacted copies of the reports Laliberte is required to submit on his efforts to find work. University officials won’t say when they found out about the pro bono consulting work, only that it will be on his next report — which, of course, they won’t release to the public.

How can the UMA community, and the UMaine System as a whole, move on from last year’s failure, which has cost so much in trust and taxpayer money, if its leaders still won’t commit to transparency? Why should anyone have trust in Malloy, or the UMS board of trustees, when they are actively hiding information from the public?

What are we supposed to think about university leadership when they act like this?

Elizabeth Powers, an associate professor of English at UMA, got it exactly right last week.

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


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