Officials violated University of Maine System policies by not consulting with human resources about whether to hire Michael Laliberte as the University of Maine at Augusta president after finding out he received no confidence votes at his former university, according to an internal review. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The recently failed University of Maine at Augusta presidential search violated a policy requiring negative information about candidates to be discussed with the human resources department before hiring decisions are made, according to an internal review by the state university system.

Chancellor Dannel Malloy ordered the review on May 12 after news reports revealed that he and the chair of the search committee did not disclose information that Michael Laliberte, who had just been hired as UMA president, received votes of no confidence from faculty and students from his former university. The review was due June 13 and a draft of the document was released Tuesday in the agenda for the University of Maine System’s board of trustees meeting scheduled for Monday.

The specific policy the UMA search violated was enacted about a decade ago as part of the trustees’ “employment background and screening policy.”

The report does not assign specific blame for who was at fault in failing to disclose the information, other than to say “the hiring or employing department” should have consulted with the university’s Human Resources Office about the matter.

Laliberte received two votes of no confidence from his former employer, State University of New York at Delhi, which Storbeck Search Managing Director Jim Sirianni found when reviewing his application. Sirianni told Malloy and search committee Chairperson Sven Bartholomew, but not the rest of the 14-member search committee. It was up to Malloy and Bartholomew to decide whether to share the information with the full committee, officials from the Storbeck consulting firm have maintained.

Laliberte, who was due to start on Aug. 1, withdrew from the job in late May. The university system agreed to pay him up to $235,000 annually for three years, in a settlement that at least one higher education expert called unusual.


The decision came as the seven-school system had to close a nearly $19 million budget gap for the fiscal year that began July 1. UMA is the third-largest school in the system and one of just two that was not facing a budget deficit.

At the July 11 meeting during which trustees are scheduled to review the proposed changes to employment search policies, they are also expected to decide whether to renew Malloy’s contract for the upcoming year or longer.

Per Malloy’s request, the employment search policies were reviewed by the Human Resources Office in consultation with the University of Maine System General Counsel Office and in analysis with the employee handbook, UMS board of trustee policies, UMS administrative practice letters contracts, and to assure compliance with Maine law.

The review of the searches said the policies, moving forward, must ensure the searches are managed with integrity, that best practices are followed and all relevant information is made available for those vetting and recommending the candidates for hire.

For the next system searches, the Human Resource Office and General Counsel proposed the following changes, in draft form, for the board of trustees to consider:

• General Counsel and Human Resources should be involved with the next searches — UMS policy for executive searches does not currently include the offices.


• The employee handbook should be distributed to all employees during onboarding and when the policies are reviewed and updated. The employee must sign an acknowledgment that they read the policies and handbook.

• All executive searches and other employment searches must be in compliance with board of trustee Policy 415 — the policy the UMA search did not meet. Additionally, the applicants must submit responses to relevant questions regarding prior investigation of sexual harassment, non-violent or violent assault, or any other misconduct.

• Candidate names will be made public when they are in the final stages of the hiring process.

• The Search Committee will have an open forum with faculty, staff and students and they will all have the ability to submit follow-up questions and comments.

• Search policies for presidents and provost positions will require candidates to disclose if they were subject of a no confidence vote.

A formal request to revise the candidate and hiring process will be made at the July 11 meeting.


The document also listed the firms used for the past candidate searches. They are the following;

• Academic Search used for the University of Southern Maine president (started in October 2021, now completed),

• Storbeck Search used for the University of Maine at Augusta president (started in October 2021, ended after the failed hire of Laliberte), University of Maine dean of the College of Engineering, Information & Computer Science (started in February, currently ongoing) and University of Maine vice president of Finance & Administration & CBO (started in February, currently ongoing).

• The Registry used to find Betsy Sawhill-Espe as the University of Maine at Presque Isle interim CBO (started in November 2020, completed), Buster Neel as interim University of Maine at Augusta CBO and previously at USM (started in May 2020, completed) Joanne Yestramski as interim University of Maine CBO & VP of finance (started in November 2020, completed), David Tracy as interim University of Maine at Fort Kent dean of enrollment (started in January, completed), King Godwin as interim University of Maine at Fort Kent dean of Arts, Sciences & Professional Studies (started in January, completed).

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