BELFAST, Maine -- University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy attends the first Board of Trustees meeting of the new fiscal year in Belfast, July 11, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The contract the University of Maine System has negotiated with a new firm to find the next president of the University of Maine at Augusta shows the restarted search could play out a lot like the first, bungled one.

Chancellor Dannel Malloy has blamed the system’s “overreliance” on an outside search firm for missteps in the previous UMA president search. But the university system’s agreement with a new search firm, ZRG Partners LLC, gives the company close control over how the search plays out and limits the role of the search committee made up of students, faculty members, trustees and community members.

The university system finalized its agreement with ZRG on Monday and released the contract Tuesday.

The University of Maine System was forced to restart its search for the next president of UMA after the selected candidate, Michael Laliberte, withdrew from the job in May.

Laliberte’s withdrawal followed revelations that he had been the subject of votes of no confidence at his previous institution in New York and that those votes were never disclosed to the search committee, even though the committee’s chair and Malloy were aware of them.

In the university system’s agreement with Storbeck Search, the firm that conducted the last search, the system and the company agreed that Storbeck would “screen, interview, and present qualified candidates” to the search committee.

Similarly, the system’s new agreement with ZRG tasks company consultant Ann Yates with “active sourcing of prospective candidates” and the “presentation of recommended candidates/candidate slate to UMA.”

The university system will also pay a similar sum to ZRG.

The system paid Storbeck $70,000 to find UMA’s next president, and will shell out another $68,000 to ZRG in this renewed search, according to the contract between the system and ZRG.

This new search is led by trustee Roger Katz, a former Augusta mayor and state senator from the area whose father was a UMA founder. A university system spokesperson Tuesday referred questions about the reliance on ZRG and Malloy’s comments about the previous search to Katz, who was not available to comment.

One area in which the ZRG-led search will differ from the previous one is the timeframe. About six months elapsed between the university system signing an agreement with Storbeck and announcing Laliberte’s selection last April. ZRG has a March deadline to fill the position, giving it about four months.

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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...