Beacon Journal higher education reporter Carol Biliczky on Dec. 12 asked for the names of applicants for the job of Kent State University president in an attempt to explain the search process at the area’s largest university.
In early January, the newspaper told KSU it had received what appeared to be an incomplete response to its request. In early January, the university asked Biliczky to make a formal records request, specifying exactly what the newspaper was seeking.
By late January, the university began to provide copies of invoices for search firm employees, but no information on the individual candidates.
In February, the newspaper retained public records specialist David Marburger of the Cleveland firm of BakerHostetler to frame a records request seeking documents that were required by contract to be delivered to the university by the search firm, Storbeck Pimental. The contract required delivery of information on the candidates.
When no new records revealing candidate information were forthcoming, the Beacon Journal interviewed KSU chief counsel Willis Walker, who said that Storbeck Pimental had been given the authority to retain all records, to determine which would be released to the public and that the search committee was sworn to a high level of secrecy.
After reviewing the invoices for candidates — none of them named — the Beacon Journal asked Kent State to explain its process for verifying that the candidate expenses and travel arrangements were proper, because there were no receipts or copies of airline tickets.
Specifically, the newspaper asked Charlene Reed, KSU vice president and board secretary: How did you approve invoices from Storbeck Pimental that did not include any identifying information, such as the name of the candidate or when they traveled?
KSU spokesman Eric Mansfield responded on her behalf: “The search process has ended with the unanimous selection of Dr. [Beverly] Warren, and we are focused now upon a positive transition of leadership as Dr. [Lester] Lefton looks to retirement. We have complied with public records requests submitted by the Akron Beacon Journal and others in releasing more than 500 pages of documents including the materials from 20 applicants who applied for the position online, receipts showing specific search expenses, and materials from the search committee.
The cost of the presidential search was reasonable when compared to the cost of similar searches conducted by other universities, and the approval process for invoices was appropriate for each expense.”