CSU controversy follows Penley to U of Idaho president search

Could former Colorado State University President Larry Penley become a Vandal? Some say he has already shown his skills as a pillager, and they are demanding his name be removed from a dwindling list of finalists for the top job at the University of Idaho.

Garrett Holbrook, president of the university’s student government association and member of UI’s presidential search committee, told The Argonaut that he received e-mails demanding Penley be removed from consideration as soon as the former CSU president’s name was released publicly.

“As soon as we put him on the list, people started saying things about him,” Holbrook said. “Frankly, on paper, he is a good candidate.”

The Idaho search controversy was sparked by TCI’s probe of Penley’s CSU administration, an investigation that raised serious questions about his budget priorities and the land-grant university’s ability to fulfill its core mission to offer an affordable education to the state’s working-class families.

Our three-part investigative series focused on the probity of Penley’s tenure that shifted millions of dollars in state funds away from the academic colleges and library system, while beefing up the school’s athletics department and nearly tripling the budget of his own Office of the President. Shocked legislators and faculty members questioned Penley’s budget swap-outs, which caused student fees to increase by a whopping 71 percent and undergraduate tuition by 52 percent since 2003.

Penley tendered his resignation from the university Nov. 5, the same day the campus newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, revealed John Lincoln, a top CSU executive and close associate of Penley’s from their days together at Arizona State University, received a $10,000-per-month sweetheart consulting deal. In October, Lincoln retired from the president’s office with a $70,000 golden parachute and a plum gig to — ironically — strengthen the university’s public affairs and communications outreach.

The UI search committee is now down to two candidates. Penley is pitted against University of Idaho law school Dean Don Burnett.

The leading candidate, Kansas State University Provost Duane Nellis, rejected the search committee’s salary offer, which is rumored to be in the neighborhood of $300,000 per year. The second top contender, Montana State University Provost David Dooley, dropped out Monday after citing a difference in vision with the Idaho State Board of Education, according to the Argonaut.

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Wendy Norris

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