ORONO — The University of Maine System plans to hire former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler to lead the merger of graduate business programs at its Portland and Orono campuses with the University of Maine School of Law, according to multiple sources.

System leadership would not confirm the pending hire on Wednesday. System spokesman Dan Demeritt said “the process is not complete,” no contract has been signed, and that the system plans to make an official announcement next week.

Once he is hired, Cutler is expected to lead the creation of a center which would combine the graduate business programs at the University of Maine in Orono and the University of Southern Maine with the University of Maine School of Law.

Cutler, 68, ran for governor in Maine as an independent candidate in 2010 and again in 2014, losing narrowly to Gov. Paul LePage in 2010 and placing third in 2014. The Bangor native worked for U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie and, later, President Jimmy Carter in the Office of Management and Budget before going on to start his own environmental law firm in the 1980s.

Chris Hall, CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, said on Wednesday that he was “aware the University of Maine System and

are in discussions,” and are working to plan an event in anticipation of an announcement.

Demeritt said the center Cutler will head will not be a school, and thus the system would not need to seek any new accreditation, which has been a concern expressed by some professors. Instead, the center will be charged with “coordinating and deploying resources across the system.”

Early this year, the system announced the hire of Danielle Conway, a business law professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, to lead Maine Law. That appointment, with a $212,000 annual salary, becomes official on July 1.

Part of her charge is to lead the merger from the law school’s end.

Demeritt said many of the details of the new center have not been formed, and the new director will be integral in parsing out those issues.

“We’re on step five of a mile-long journey,” he said.


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