Discretion focus of UM search meeting

Committee to find a new UM System president discussed confidentiality of candidates.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:33 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The first meeting of the 19-member committee charged with selecting a successor for University of Missouri System President Elson Floyd was dominated by a discussion of how best to fill the position while abiding by the state’s open-government law.

In an “organizational” conference call Monday afternoon with members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, UM System General Counsel Bunky Wright said balancing the confidentiality of candidates with Missouri’s Sunshine Law will be important to the process of choosing a successor to Floyd, who is scheduled to take over as head of Washington State University on June 1.

All reasonable steps are going to be taken to maintain confidentiality that the person is a candidate,” Wright said. He further explained that all communications between committee members, including phone calls and e-mail exchanges, could be considered meetings of a public body and would have to be announced 24 hours ahead of time.

Jerry Baker, of the executive search firm hired to assist UM in its search, said candidates already hold high-profile positions in their industries. A public announcement of their interest in the UM job could be inconvenient, said Baker, who made it clear that it is in the system’s best interest not to disclose the names of potential candidates.

“This search can be broken and fall apart if confidentiality is betrayed,” he said.

UM System spokesman Scott Charton said committee members have signed a confidentiality agreement, saying they will not discuss the search process or candidates.

“A breach would jeopardize our search,” said UM System Board of Curators Chairman Don Walsworth.

The Board of Curators could identify three to five finalists by May 21, but the first week of June is more likely, Baker said.

The advisory committee — consisting of students, faculty, alumni, staff, extension representatives and UM retirees — will then interview the candidates and report its impressions and recommendations back to the board for a final decision.

Baker did not say how many people have expressed interest in the job, but said the list of candidates continues to grow. The most recent nomination came two hours before Monday’s meeting.

When they do meet with candidates, Baker told committee members, they should try to place the UM System in a positive light.

“They (candidates) will look to you for insight about what it really means to be in and of the University,” Baker said. “Your meeting will be as much marketing and advertising as it will analysis.”

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