This is the forty-eighth post in an ongoing series as we file Missouri Sunshine Law (RSMo 610) requests and investigate the non-renewal of the contract of University of Central Missouri President Aaron Podolefsky. Links to previous coverage are below the fold. BG and MB
The student newspaper at the University of Central Missouri, the Muleskinner, published the following unsigned lead editorial in its February 18, 2010 edition (page 4, voices, and yes, we asked):
Board Of Governors’ Secret Selection Process Wrong For University
UCM’s Board of Governors isn’t totally inept – it can still spin the truth and fib fairly well.
The Board decided on Feb. 4 that the presidential search would be conducted in secret. Board President Richard Phillips sent a letter to the campus community stating that candidates would be reluctant to apply to UCM if the names of our applicants were made public because they expected retribution from the candidates’ current employers….
….This decision obviously stems from the Board’s reaction to UCM President Aaron Podolefsky’s having an interview or two over the years.
The Board fails to realize that very few Boards of Governors or Regents are as vindictive and petty as they are….
….The only possible reasons for conducting the presidential search in secret are:
1) The Board actively plans to violate the law in hiring a candidate.
2) The Board already has its choice for president and the search is just a sham.
3) The Board realizes that they will be unable to secure viable candidates of an equal or greater caliber than the president they just threw away like last night’s leftovers.
4) The Board has no confidence in itself and is running scared of potential controversy….
….It is time the Board of Governors starts working in the best interests of the University instead of acting like a high school clique.
It is important to note that Aaron Podolefsky only started interviewing for other positions after Richard Phillips made an inquiry of then Faculty Senate President Jack Rogers in late 2007 about possible faculty reaction to the Board buying out the president’s contract.
Coincidentally, we filled some Missouri Sunshine Law requests.
From: Michael Bersin [….]
Date: Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 8:22 AM
Subject: Request for information – RSMo 610
Under RSMo 610 I am requesting the following:
1. In the period from December 1, 2009 to this date – any communications or documents sent or received by the University of Central Missouri Board of Governors or any member of the Board of Governors concerning the giving or gift history of Benoit Wesly to the CMSU/UCM Foundation.
2. In the period from December 1, 2009 to this date – any communications or documents sent or received by the University of Central Missouri Board of Governors or any member of the Board of Governors concerning the giving or gift history of any other individual to the CMSU/UCM Foundation.
Under RSMo 610.026 I am requesting a waiver of any copying fee since this request is “in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the public governmental body and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.”
Thank you. [….]
We received the following somewhat testy reply:
To: Michael Bersin [….]
Date: Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 9:39 AM
Subject: Re: Request for information – RSMo 610
On February 17, 2010, you made a request for records under the Missouri Sunshine Law and asked for a waiver of fees since you viewed the request to be in the public’s interest. Be advised that this fee is being waived not because it is in the public’s best interest, but because the cost of providing the documents to you is very minimal (70 cents).
The requested information is available and may be picked up from my office in ADM 202. I will leave it in an envelope at the front desk.
Custodian of Records [….]
[emphasis in original]
Okay. We still think it’s in the public’s interest to know what a public entity is doing.
Does this mean we’re going to get back the $87.75 we paid for one page?
This is the start of what we got for the seventy cents we didn’t have to pay – an e-mail addressed to Joseph Kremer, Chief Development Officer and Executive Director of the UCM Foundation:
[….]1/28/2010 10:32 AM [….]
I have had a request from the Board to obtain information from the Foundation concerning the history of Mr. Ben Wesly’s giving to UCM. Please advise if and when this information can be provided. Thank you. [….]
Now, we have to ask, why would the Board of Governors want to know the details of Benoit Wesly’s giving to the University of Central Missouri Foundation?
Speaking of spin, a letter to the editor written by an individual appeared in the February 8th edition of the local paper, the Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal:
…If we allow this European to hold UCM hostage over this perceived derogatory comment, then we are throwing our sense of right and wrong under the bus in order to continue to receive his favor. If his gifts came with strings attached then those strings should have been identified prior to his giving, and our accepting them. I feel that his gifts come at too high a price. Possibly we should rename the Maastricht Friendship Tower, and call it the Wesley Hostage Tower….
Or, we could spell Benoit Wesly’s last name correctly and call it a draw. Wait, who else keeps spelling Benoit Wesly’s last name incorrectly?
Back to the Board’s request for information. Joe Kremer replied:
[….] 1/28/2010 5:38 PM [….]
After consultation with Dale Zank, president of the UCM Foundation Board of Directors, we have asked our legal counsel, Stinson, Morrison, Hacker LLP, to weigh in on the request. We are sensitive to the issuance of donor information to any outside individual or agency, and feel it appropriate not to respond until counsel has had an opportunity to present their opinion.
Another e-mail to members of the Board of Governors explains:
To: Richard Philips; [….] Wright, Marvin
Date: 1/29/2010 3:19 PM
Subject: Fwd: Release of Donor Information
CC: Setser, Henry
Please see the response to the inquiry/request for information pertaining to Ben Wesly’s giving.
Joseph Kremer 1/29/2010 2:57 PM [….]
The Foundation’s legal counsel, Stinson, Morrison, Hecker LLP, recommends that all donor information be kept confidential. Their interpretation of the law is that we have the ability to keep such giving history private.
We feel that were it to be known that the Foundation releases such information to outside agencies or individuals, we would experience a chilling effect on our ability to solicit and secure future gifts.
The giving information regarding the Tower referenced in the article (“the 1997 article in UCM’s Alumni Today said his gift was more than $300,000”) is public information, and can be thought of as accurate.
Dale Zank, president of the Foundation Board, will be calling Weldon Brady to discuss with him our position.
Chief Development Officer
Executive Director, UCM Foundation [….]
Weldon Brady, a member of the Board of Governors, wrote a letter to Joe Kremer:
February 1, 2010
Mr. Joe Kremer
University Director & Chief
University of central Missouri
Warrensburg, Missouri 64093
In reviewing my e-mails over the weekend, I first learned of the request of fellow Board of Governor member Marvin Wright for donor information and must say I was surprised by your response. I presume your reference to me in your response is because of my liaison to the Foundation, which in and of itself seems to confirm, of course, the affiliation between the university and the Foundation.
In order that I may be prepared to answer any questions that may arise regarding this issue, would you please afford me the following information:
1. Is it your legal counsel’s specific opinion that the information requested be denied Mr. Wright and/or UCM’s Board of Governors, or is it a general recommendation that all donor information be confidential.
2. Is it your opinion that Mr. Wright or the university is “an individual or outside agency?”
3. If I were to make a similar request as past president and emeriti Foundation Board member, would that request be denied. Further, if a Foundation Board officer and/or Foundation Board member made a similar request, would it be denied?
4. Is it your position and the opinion of the legal counsel that the Missouri Sunshine Law does not apply to the Foundation?
Thank you Joe for your prompt response to these questions.
Weldon Brady, Secretary
Board of Governors
Cc: UCM Board of Governors
Dale Zank, UCM Foundation Board President
Dr. Aaron Podolefsky, University President
[emphasis in original]
Evidently somebody changed their mind, but they didn’t do so in writing. We got the list.
We received no other communications or documents concerning other donors in response to this Missouri Sunshine Law request.
As of March 1, 2010 Joe Kremer has accepted a position elsewhere and will no longer be working for the University or the Foundation.
Well, we do know that the University of Central Missouri Board of Governors are subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law. Kind of explains one of the practical aspects of Joe Kremers’s position, doesn’t it? If the University and the Foundation are one and the same, we’re going to request some information we’re interested in from the Foundation.
Our previous coverage of the issue:
Three steps behind, and to the right (January 25, 2008)
Three steps behind, and to the right, part 2 – a microcosm of our universe (September 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”? (October 15, 2009) (transcript of a portion of the live radio broadcast)
It wasn’t just about a tree (October 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: I heard it on the radio (October 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: let’s not get cut out of the will (October 22, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: $87.75 will get you one sheet of paper (October 23, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: They’re not playing hardball, they’re playing cat and mouse (October 23, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: a cola and some scoreboards (October 24, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: a few more pieces of the puzzle? (October 28, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: your silence means consent (October 29, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: let’s not get cut out of the will, part 2 (October 30, 2009)
Old media irony impairment (October 30, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: I heard it on the radio, part 2 (October 31, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: where everybody knows your name (October 31, 2009)
Methinks that someone is paying attention! (November 2, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: Bond, Stadium Bond (November 4, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: where everybody knows your name, part 2 (November 4, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: I heard it on the radio, part 3 (November 5, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: nothing succeeds like success (November 6, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: your Friday news dump (November 6, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: nothing exceeds like excess (November 7, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a grade for Accounting 101 (November 7, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: there ought to be a law (November 8, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: there ought to be a law, part 2 (November 10, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: Garbo speaks! (November 12, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle (November 13, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”? Follow the money and it reveals the timeline (November 14, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: the new president search consulting contract (November 18, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a march on a cold and rainy day (November 18, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: raise their voices (November 19, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: great moments in radio reporting (November 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: Oh, my! (December 3, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: It’s simple, really… (December 5, 2009)
Oh brother, it’s time to convene another panel on blogger ethics… (December 8, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a lesson on how not to attempt damage control (January 26, 2010)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: welcome to the party… (February 1, 2010)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: welcome to the party, four months late, part 2 (February 2, 2010)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: those people from Denmark, you know, the Dutch (February 3, 2010)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a conversation with the Muleskinner (February 6, 2010)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a simple question (February 8, 2010)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: and we should give weight to your opinion… (February 18, 2010)