As part of the settlement this week of an open-meetings lawsuit, Colorado State University has released an extended version of a tape of the May 5 meeting where the university board selected its own vice chairman, Joe Blake, for the newly created standalone chancellor position at the school.
The new tape provides further evidence that the board rushed the selection of Blake and resented outside scrutiny of the decision-making process. It underlines the fact that the board saw the insular nature of its deliberations as only a problem for the perception it caused, not for the results it would likely generate or the precedent it set or for the way it defied state laws. In short, the tape demonstrates that, to a significant extent, the board as a whole acted the way critics of the process feared it was acting.
In addition to and partly because of all that, the tape is very entertaining.
During the deliberations, Board Chairman Doug Jones repeatedly defended the process. We’re not trying to “jam” or “shove” Blake into the position, he assured his colleagues. But irked lawmakers in Denver had introduced a bill to open up the CSU search process, he said, so he urged fast action and said he preferred his longtime colleague Blake for the position.
“This bill could delay our whole process. We may need to move quicker because this bill could pass in some form this afternoon, tomorrow morning, as we speak. We need to consider that, because otherwise the process could be thrown back and we might have to restart it.”
Jones also makes clear that he was offended by lawmakers who questioned the dealings of the board in the matter.
I’ve been close to politics all my life so it’s not news to me but I’ve been so disappointed at, for lack of a better word, the un-Christian attitudes. For me that sums it up, the un-Christian attitudes in the kind of demonstrative efforts that are going on down there, it’s just beyond my wildest dreams.
The board viewed Joe Blake as “a gift” to CSU and made the case for his selection based on his charisma and connections in Denver:
“When you’re in a room of movers and shakers in Denver… and Joe Blake walks in, it’s like the Pope walked in!”
It appears to be Jones Board Vice Chairman Ed Haselden says that he knew and worked with the only other candidate the board was considering as a finalist for the chancellorship, former president and CEO of University of Colorado Hospital Dennis Brimhall.
He’s not as eager as Blake, Haselden says, but that’s “a little bit of Dennis’s personality.
“I’m the one, by the way, that went out and called Dennis Brimhall and said ‘Hey are you interested in this job?’ Because I worked with Dennis when we built all that work out at University Hospital… ”
As Judge Stephen Schapanski ruled in June, the board violated open-meetings laws intended to bring this kind of decision-making into the public square. The search would clearly have been different had it been conducted in public.
Although CSU admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement of the suit, in the end, the board promoted candidates powerful members of the board knew personally. The board made decisions behind closed doors. It calculated how it would present the decision it made illegally in private to the public and then sell the results. It also intentionally failed to address the concerns of lawmakers, members of the press as well as concerned faculty and students at CSU.