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This is the fifty-second 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

February 4, 2008:

….I have been contacted by a member of the UCM Board of Governors. The board member asked me what I thought the faculty’s response would be if an offer was tendered by the Board to “buy out President Podolefsky’s contract.” I immediately asked if such an offer was forthcoming from the Board; and if so, why I was being asked to comment.  The board member stated that ‘no official discussions or conclusions had been reached,’ but that several campus leaders were being asked what they thought the reaction of their respective constituents might be if such an action was proposed. I told the board member that I would need time to consider my response. Pursuant to that conversation, I have been contacted by other leaders of campus units to see if my opinion on the “Podolefsky buy-out” had been solicited….

Anyone think that Aaron Podolefsky didn’t know that this “buyout” question was asked in late 2007?

January 15, 2009:

…In October 2008, Podolefsky became one of four finalists vying for the presidential seat at Central Washington University. At the time, Podolefsky stated “It’s not that it’s a better fit. They are an institution very much like us, that’s probably why they are interested in me,” Podolefsky said.

Some at the meeting took this as an indication that Podolefsky wanted to leave. Faculty Senate Vice President Jerry Kangas was one who shared this opinion.

“The president chose to go on that interview. When you choose to go to an interview, you’re choosing to leave in my opinion,” Kangas said.

However, others had reservations about this thinking….

[emphasis added]

February 11, 2010:

….The battle plan to hire a new president has been in the works since December 2008 when Aaron Podolefsky was in the running for the president of Central Washington University.

“Follow Aaron’s path….When Aaron was in the running for the job at Central Washington, we bagan to gear up and say, ‘If he gets a job, where are we? We need to get our processes in place.’ This isn’t something we did in a weekend or in one meeting,” Phillips said….

Except someone on the board was floating the idea of a buyout a year earlier. This mad scramble a year later doesn’t look very good in the adequately planning for contingencies column when it comes to evaluating the board, does it?

Uh, that’s a two year span of events in case you weren’t keeping track.

After the February, 17, 2010 faculty forum on the presidential search we submitted a Missouri Sunshine Law request:

From: Michael Bersin [….]

Date: Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 7:24 PM

Subject: Request for information – RSMo 610

Under RSMo 610 I am requesting the following:

1. A copy of the confidentiality statement/agreement signed by the members of the presidential search advisory committee.

2. A copy of the “rubric” document created by the presidential search consultant and provided to/or to be provided to the members of the presidential search advisory committee.

3. A copy of the confidentiality statement/agreement pertaining to the presidential search signed by the members of the Board of Governors. Also, If the members of the Board of Governors have signed such a confidentiality statement/agreement, copies of the actual document(s) signed by the members of the Board of Governors.

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 attended a University of Central Missouri Board of Governors “work session” on December 10, 2009 at  6:00 p.m. where the board discussed the makeup of the presidential search advisory committee:

….Marvin “Bunky” Wright: …To me, something that’s gonna be extremely important for people, and particularly people that are candidates, is confidentiality. We can talk about the makeup of this group as much as we want to, but, you know, it’s gonna end up that I think that we have to have the absolute faith of these people that they are gonna keep everything confidential. Because you can wreck people’s careers by just running off at the mouth. You know that stupid Bunky Wright applied for such and such. You know, it gets back to the institution where I am and it’s goodbye. And it, it, uh, the searches that I’ve been involved in that’s a crucial point [crosstalk].

Ken Hutchinson: I saw it happen.

Marvin “Bunky” Wright: Because a lot of good people won’t apply unless they’re just absolutely certain it’s confidential.

Richard Phillips: Should we [inaudible] put together some little packet of information where if you agree to serve on the committee here’s your responsibility?

Ken Hutchinson: Look, I’d take it a step, yes, that for sure and we’ll, we’ll put that together. But I think that needs to sign a confidentiality statement and it, and turn it in to, uh, to Monica and she has on file that this. And if they don’t want to sign it then we, they don’t have to serve.

Marvin “Bunky” Wright: You know, it’s not trying to hide from the public or anybody. [crosstalk, several voices: “No”.]

Richard Phillips: But for serving the integrity of the candidates [inaudible]…

Ken Hutchinson: Yeah, good point….

Project much?

And, we did receive a reply to our Missouri Sunshine Law request:

[….]

To: Michael Bersin [….]

CC: Henry Setser [….]

Date: Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Subject: Re: Request for information – RSMo 610

[….]

In response to your request received on 2/18/10, wherein you ask for [….]

please find attached a copy of the Oath of confidentiality that has been or will be signed by all members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee and the members of the Board of Governors, and the “rubric” document for use in the evaluation of applicant files.  In regard to your request for “signed” copies of the Oath of Confidentiality by both the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee and the members of the Board of Governors, these are considered to be the equivalent of personnel records, and are therefore, closed.

Sincerely,

[….]

Custodian of Records

Okay. On December 10, 2009 there was no discussion in the meeting of having members of the Board of Governors sign the confidentiality agreement. To be fair, between that time and their present response they could have decided that that would be a good idea. But, the thought didn’t enter the discussion in that hour long “work session” in December of 2009.

The “Oath of Confidentiality”:

OATH OF CONFIDENTIALITY

I, __________________________, DO SOLEMNLY ACCEPT AND AGREE TO ABIDE BY THIS WRITTEN “OATH OF CONFIDENTIALLY” THAT I WILL NOT DIVULGE ANY INFORMATION REGARDING THE IDENTITIES OF CANDIDATES OR PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATES TO ANYONE AT ANYTIME DURING THE PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH OR TO ANYONE AFTER THE PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH CONCLUDES.

________________________________

Signature

___________

Date

All that’s missing is the part where they put you on double secret probation for failing to live up to it.

We asked for:

…1. A copy of the confidentiality statement/agreement signed by the members of the presidential search advisory committee…

…and…

…3. A copy of the confidentiality statement/agreement pertaining to the presidential search signed by the members of the Board of Governors. Also, If the members of the Board of Governors have signed such a confidentiality statement/agreement, copies of the actual document(s) signed by the members of the Board of Governors….

Now, we really weren’t concerned about getting to copies of the actual [signed] statements for the search advisory committee members, but, in fairness, we could see that someone might interpret our request that way if taken in isolation. You would think that someone might get clued in by the second sentence of our request in the section pertaining to the board.

What’s fascinating about the response is the assertion “…these are considered to be the equivalent of personnel records, and are therefore, closed.”

From previous discussions in open meetings we know that the confidentiality agreement/statement exists (and they gave it to us when we asked for it) and we know that members of the presidential search advisory committee won’t be allowed to participate if they haven’t signed it. So, what’s the secret? The color of ink they used to sign it? Or the date?

As for the members of the Board of Governors, we have an assertion that they have or will sign the document, but that we can’t get copies of the actual documents because they are “…the equivalent of personnel records…” Really? The members of the Board of Governors have personnel records? I’d be more convinced if someone could actually find them.

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’s gotta be a contract around here somewhere (November 9, 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)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: I do truly care about the success of our students (December 6, 2009)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: “…a wonderful relationship there we’re really proud of…” (December 7, 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”?: a lesson on how not to attempt damage control, part 2 (January 28, 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)

Find the Non-Employee Game! (February 8, 2010)(NYCMule)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a different choice of phrase would have made it all better (February 11, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: never mind the facts, here’s right wingnut talk radio (February 13, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: and we should give weight to your opinion… (February 18, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: fools for spin (February 20, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: fools rush in… (February 21, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: Who’s the more foolish… (February 25, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a phone call from out of the blue (February 26, 2010)

HASSLER to PHILLIPS Connect-the-Dots Game! (February 27, 2010)(NYCMule)