In an interview with the Colorado State University board just hours before he was selected the sole finalist for the university’s new stand-alone chancellorship, business leader and CSU Board Vice Chairman Joe Blake dismissed perceptions the search was mishandled in a way that left observers crying cronyism.
Upon the announcement two weeks ago that the board was concluding the search, citizens and members of the press cried foul, arguing that the the decision to select Blake appeared rushed and that the search process had appeared intentionally opaque, possibly violating state transparency laws.
The flawed process troubled at least one member of the board’s search committee and, as a recording released yesterday under threat of a lawsuit reveals, the members of the board as a whole conceded there was a public “perception problem” with the way the search had been conducted.
The tape also reveals that on the day the board selected Blake as sole finalist, a member raised the board’s concerns with him in the form of a question: “What steps should we take to ensure the perception is that the process was fair and equal and was conducted in the best possible manner?”
Blake makes it clear that, for him, public perception is a side matter.
“I know what’s true,” Blake says at one point. “The press will have to understand… they can say all the things they want to say, but the fact of the matter is they know different. And we know what the truth is.”
The answer as a whole suggests a disregard for the value of public disclosure and debate that is contrary to the mission of the university and the laws that govern it as a public institution — and the answer failed to assuage the concerns of the CSU board.
Blake: Ten years ago I was on the board at the [Denver Chamber of Commerce] when I was asked to step in and become president and there was no problem. People understood and frankly respected it… Here we have a different issue and I’m keenly aware of it…
But I also know what’s true. I know what’s true. And if you know what’s true, then you know there was no inside dealing. I mean, you know you’ve got someone who had four years of experience on this board … that should be a qualification not a disqualification for this. And we know what’s true. People who know me know of my integrity and I stand on it. My reputation is the most important thing. Believe me, wrestled a long time with whether to do this or not and having crossed that rubicon, you know I wanna do it, and you know I’ll do a damn good job at it, and the press will have to understand that this is a situation of coincidence. It’s not a situation of conspiracy. Because we know what the truth is.
Board Member: …So your answer is Just do it and go with it and don’t worry about it.
Board Member: Great. Thanks.
Board Member II: Just to be clear about this, Joe: You’re not saying not to do anything about it. You’re saying address it head on.
Board Member II: But you’re just not gonna ignore it.
Blake: No, I mean, it’s something that frankly will — I don’t want to be presumptuous so, please, I’m going to speak in a hypothetical. If this was to go forward, we’re going to need to address it. We’re going to need to understand it. But — this is a terrible immodest thing — I think I’m known by the press, to the press and others for being an honest person, for being a person of integrity, and they can say all the things they want [to] say but the fact of the matter is they know different. And we know what the truth is.