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

The newly selected president of the University of Maine at Augusta, who has been the subject of a controversial search process, has voluntarily withdrawn himself from the position ahead of his start date.

Michael Laliberte, the outgoing president of the State College of New York Delhi, has voluntarily withdrawn as the next president of the Augusta and Bangor based institution, the University of Maine Board of Trustees said in a statement on Sunday. Laliberte was set to start Aug. 1

The selection and appointment of Laliberte has been mired in conflict since he was announced as the next president of the third-largest public university in the state. After Laliberte was named as the next president, Bangor Daily News reporting revealed that less than a year ago he was the subject of two votes of no confidence and that the information surrounding those votes was not shared with the search committee in charge of selecting the next UMA president. 

“At our joint recommendation, the Board of Trustees will launch a new national search for the president of the University of Maine at Augusta next fall,” Malloy said. “We are grateful for the continued leadership of Dr. Joe Szakas, who has agreed to continue serving as interim president through next June 30, which will ensure that we have the time and space to conduct a comprehensive and robust new search.”

As part of the agreement, Laliberte will be paid one year’s salary without ever serving in the role. Annually Laliberte was set to be paid $205,000, according to his contract. 

In the days and weeks after Laliberte’s appointment, UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy has said he and Sven Bartholomew, the trustee that led the search process, were informed of the votes by Jim Sirianni of the firm Storbeck Search, a consultant the University of Maine System hired to assist in the presidential search. 

According to Malloy and Bartholomew, they were told not to share this information with the broader search committee, a move both have apologized for. 

Subsequently, the UMA, the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine Farmington faculty have all held votes of no confidence in Malloy’s leadership as a result of the search. Faculty at UMA specifically called for the search to be restarted because of the situation. 

Other UMaine System campuses have not held votes of no confidence but have issued statements of support of UMA, UMF and USM votes.

All of the search committee members signed a pledge, called a code of ethics, stating they would, “guard against inaccuracies, carelessness, bias, and distortion made through either emphasis or omission of information.” Committee members also pledged “to be fair, accurate, honest, and responsible in my management of information.”

While Bartholomew didn’t share that information with other committee members, a second member of the committee was aware but would have had to violate the committee members’ code of ethics to share that information broadly with the committee.

Under the code, committee members were obligated to first bring “reports of concern” about candidates to the chair “in order to allow for checks on their accuracy before sharing widely.”

The consultant helping with the search investigated the allegations behind the no-confidence vote before the search committee completed its recommendations for finalists, the system has said previously. 

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Malloy and the chair of the trustees Mark Gardner took responsibility for the outcome of the search. 

“We take responsibility for the lack of trust in the initial UMA presidential search process and will move forward to constitute a new search committee and seek new candidates with the guidance of a new search firm, to be selected after a thorough [request for proposal] process.” 

In a separate statement from Laliberte, Malloy and Bartholomew, the trio said that it was wrong to have not shared the information about the no confidence votes in Laliberte. 

“This was a mistake and has understandably caused a deep mistrust of the search process within the University of Maine at Augusta community,” the statement said. “We regret this outcome, but believe that this resolution is the right decision for now.”

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...