Blake skirted formal CSU chancellor search process, selected 6 days later

The Coloradoan today reports more evidence that the Colorado State University System board and Joe Blake likely violated state laws by meeting secretly to discuss his application for the chancellorship. Blake formally submitted his application for the position the same day of a closed April 29 meeting with the head of the CSU governing board. Blake, then-vice chair of the board, was named sole finalist for the chancellor position by the board a week later.

It’s the latest news to come dribbling out of the CSU board rooms since the controversial chancellor search ended with the sudden May 6 announcement of Blake as the sole finalist for the position.

But there will be more news to come.

The Colorado Independent, the Coloradoan and The Pueblo Chieftain have sued CSU for violating state open-meeting laws by discussing Blake’s candidacy in closed-door executive session. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say state law prohibits public bodies from meeting in private to discuss their own members. The lawsuit concerns the May 5 meeting after which Blake was named the sole finalist and the April 29 executive session between Blake and Board Chairman Douglas Jones.

As Vice Chairman of the CSU Board, Blake played a key role in the decision arrived at in December to create a stand-alone chancellorship at the university. He did not, however, join the search committee formed to nominate candidates for the position. Committee members were prohibited from applying for the chancellorship.

As the Colordoan reports, although Blake did not submit his application for the chancellorship until the end of April — the day of his secret meeting with Board Chairman Jones — legislators had been hearing that Blake was a top candidate for months. Fellow board member Pat Grant nominated Blake for the chancellorship earlier in April. Both Grant and Jones are former board members of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, which Blake has headed for the last decade.

This latest information — concerning Blake’s timely closed-door meeting with Board Chairman Jones — fuels perception that the Blake selection was on some level a pre-determined conclusion orchestrated from the inside, exactly the kind of maneuvering lawmakers are seeking to prohibit when it comes to filling major tax-funded positions that come with the power to guide major public institutions like a state university.

The secretive CSU chancellor search riled lawmakers and observers who demanded greater transparency in the process. Frustrated leaders in the state legislature eventually introduced a bill requiring the CSU board to open up the process. The congressional leaders abandoned the bill, however, the same day the CSU board made its surprise announcement that the search was over and that Blake was the sole finalist.