The recent search for a new president for the University of Maine at Augusta was a failure, for sure.

But to call it a policy failure does not go far enough. This was, more than anything else, a failure of leadership, and along with other missteps, it should make the UMaine System Board of Trustees question the future of Chancellor Dannel Malloy.

The six-month search for a new president ended with a committee hiring Michael Laliberte in April.

However, Laliberte withdrew from the position a little more than a month later after it was revealed that Malloy and the chairman of the search committee had withheld knowledge of two no-confidence votes against Laliberte at his previous position as president of the State University of New York at Delhi.

Once faculty and students at UMA heard that Laliberte was hired under false pretenses, they were enraged, and his position at the school became untenable. He stepped down, and the cash-strapped UMaine System agreed to a hefty settlement.

Under fire, Malloy asked three university officials to review the incident as well as all policies on employment searches, and to offer recommendations on how they should be approved.


A draft of a report from the group was included in materials for the trustees’ July 11 meeting, when they will also be discussing a possible extension of Malloy’s contract.

The report finds that the UMA search did not follow a policy requiring that negative information about a candidate be relayed to and discussed with the human resources department.

It also offers a series of recommendations, including that HR be involved in all executive searches, that finalists for a top job are made public and available for on-campus interviews, and that campus community feedback is considered in any final selection.

The report also suggests requiring candidates to disclose if they have ever been the subject of a no-confidence vote.

The recommendations make sense. In fact, most of them should have been followed, whether official policy or not, in the search that ended with Laliberte’s hiring.

Instead, Malloy decided to withhold the information about Laliberte, undermining the search committee and putting the new president’s legitimacy at risk.


Malloy has now admitted the mistake, but he continues to place blame on a consultant who he said told him that the information regarding the no-confidence votes was not relevant to the search.

Whether the consultant said that or not, the final judgment is on Malloy — and it doesn’t reflect well on his leadership.

Malloy should have wanted the search committee to know everything about Laliberte.

He should have wanted the UMA community to know as well. He should have been ready to explain why Laliberte’s problems at SUNY-Delhi were not enough to disqualify him from leading UMA.

Malloy’s goal should have been to find a candidate who could win the support of faculty, staff, students and administration at UMA as the UMaine System goes through a time of change. Instead, he left most of the UMA community feeling like they didn’t matter.

It’s a feeling that can be found on other UMaine campuses as well, a result not only of the UMA debacle but also Malloy’s clumsy handling of other matters. It’s important that UMaine be led by someone who can rebuild trust with faculty and students.

That doesn’t appear to be one of Malloy’s strengths. If he’s not up to the task, then the Board of Trustees should cut their losses and find the right leader.

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