Michael Laliberte. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine System

The man recently tapped to lead the University of Maine at Augusta is leaving his current position at another university months after faculty members there cast a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

While University of Maine System administrators were aware of the no-confidence vote, not all members of the committee charged with conducting the search knew about it, a system spokesperson said.

The University of Maine System said last month that Michael Laliberte will lead the university with campuses in Augusta and Bangor starting Aug. 1. He has served as president of the State University of New York at Delhi since 2016.

The College Senate there last October held a no-confidence vote in Laliberte, saying in an Oct. 10, 2021, letter to the chancellor of the State University of New York system that he had been fiscally irresponsible and that he and his leadership team “enabled a culture of disrespect and hostility.”

Laliberte “lacks the vision, institutional knowledge, and trust of the campus to lead SUNY Delhi into the future,” faculty and staff members wrote in the letter to then-SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras.

In addition, professors and staff members wrote, SUNY Delhi’s cash reserves of $20 million “were depleted” by over 50 percent between September 2018 and September 2020. Laliberte and his leadership team also changed budgeting procedures during his tenure to reduce oversight and transparency, the letter said.

The “culture of disrespect and hostility” was reflected in a campus climate survey and consultation report, according to the letter.

The Daily Star, a newspaper in Oneonta, New York, published a story earlier this week detailing the no-confidence vote.

A SUNY Delhi spokesperson didn’t respond to requests for comment on the complaints in the College Senate letter.

The University of Maine System chose Laliberte after a nationwide search. He’ll assume leadership at UMA after its previous president, Rebecca Wyke, stepped down last year to lead the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. UMA enrolls about 4,000 students, many of them nontraditional college students pursuing degrees as adults.

Margaret Nagle, a University of Maine System spokesperson, said Laliberte received the job because of his long career in higher education and “overwhelming UMA community support.”

“The SUNY Delhi College Senate matter was carefully reviewed at the time, and discussed as well with President Laliberte’s confidential references, which provided additional information and context not evident in The Daily Star reporting or SUNY Delhi College Senate minutes,” Nagle said.

University of Maine System administrators were aware of the vote of no confidence, she said, “but we do not believe the entire search committee was aware of the matter.”

The meeting minutes from the College Senate’s Oct. 18, 2021, meeting detailed an exchange of differing views on the vote of no confidence. Ultimately, a majority supported the vote of no confidence.

While the minutes were available on SUNY Delhi’s official website on Wednesday morning, they were no longer available on the college’s website Wednesday afternoon, after the Bangor Daily News made inquiries.

Elizabeth Frisbee, an associate professor of veterinary science technology at SUNY Delhi and leader of the College Senate, did not respond to requests for comment.

Laliberte served as the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before moving to SUNY Delhi. While there, three students named Laliberte and other university leaders in a 2015 lawsuit they filed in federal court claiming that the university discriminated against student leaders and violated Wisconsin state law.

The lawsuit was later dismissed.

Laliberte went through an extensive background check that looked at his academic history as well as any related litigation and turned up nothing disqualifying, Nagle said.

It is not uncommon for university administrators to be named in their official capacities in lawsuits, she noted.

The University of Maine System “remains confident that incoming President Laliberte will be a collaborative leader who will work with UMA’s world-class faculty and staff to move the university forward in the coming years,” Nagle said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the range of University of Maine System staff who were aware of the vote of no confidence. University of Maine System leaders knew about it, but not the entire search committee involved with Laliberte’s selection.

Avatar photo

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...