New Colorado law gives public institutions more discretion in the hiring process for the CEO position
A bill that recently passed all three senate and house readings in Colorado will allow public institutions the option to withhold names of all but one of the final candidates during the hiring process for top leadership positions.
But Matt Gianneschi, Chief Operating Officer & Chief of Staff at Colorado Mountain College, said the bill wouldn’t have much of an effect on CMC.
“Our board of trustees is the only body that has the authority to hire a president. And to produce an employment agreement … that’s about as far as our rules concerning the (CEO) go for us, because the board itself conducts that search,” Gianneschi said. “We have an elected board of trustees, that is one of their responsibilities, they take it very seriously and I don’t know that this does anything to interrupt what they would otherwise follow in their procedures anyway.”
Back in 2013 before Carrie Hauser was hired, CMC released the names of five semi-finalists before the final hiring decision was announced. This was prior to Gianneschi’s time at the college but he said in the past CMC acknowledged a two-week period of finalizing details before releasing information about the selected candidate.
“I think they do a two-week period where they negotiate the contract and the board has meetings on campus and the like, and they finally, if both parties agree, then they execute the contract.”
Understanding the context of the bill is important, Gianneschi said, since previously it was required to release the names of all applicants who were being seriously considered 14 days before the decision was made. Releasing an applicant’s name could have a negative impact on other positions they were applying for or the status of where they were currently employed, and was making positions in Colorado less appealing. Gianneschi said as long as the information isn’t confidential in nature, like termination details, an evaluation, health or family matters, CMC’s stance is that the public should be able to review the hiring documents.
“As a general matter. We absolutely believe that the public should have access to all appropriate documents and have the ability to view all processes that are not what we might consider confidential personnel matters. … But beyond that, any of the general business of the college should always be available for inspection from any citizen.”
It is not uncommon for candidate searches to fail, Gianneschi said, and sometimes the naming of semi-finalists impacts an individual’s decision on whether or not to go through with the process. In 2013 Jill Boyle withdrew her name from the process because of, according to a letter she had written, “the anonymous but apparently orchestrated effort to cast a pall of unwarranted controversy over my name.” Gianneschi also confirmed that if the board of trustees feels like none of the candidates are the right fit for the college, they’ll end the hiring process and consider an interim president while beginning a more thorough search for the individual who will take the permanent position.
“I think the CEO role, what’s a little different there is that it really comes down to fit, more than anything else. You can have a slate of incredibly talented people, none of whom may be the particular right fit for that college,” Gianneschi said.
“It gives the board additional options in order to allow Colorado institutions to be as competitive as possible if and when any of the institutions are running executive searches that they have this option available to them,” Gianneschi said.
Public Information Officer for Roaring Fork School District, Kelsy Been, wrote in an email that the only position within the district that would be affected by this bill is the Superintendent role. The board has not yet discussed the bill but the Colorado Association of School Boards issues recommendations on policy changes when it is necessary or a new law goes into effect.
“We will be watching to see what CASB issues as a result of this new legislation. For the school district, the only chief executive officer position is the superintendent,” Been wrote.
The bill helps provide a greater sense of confidentiality to applicants which Gianneschi said is already one of CMC’s top priorities when it comes to the hiring process.
“I think it is important though to continue to maintain the standard of protecting information that comes through any human resources related search, procedure or activity. … I think if there was ever an assumption that anybody’s information could be produced willy nilly, I think it does raise some serious questions about how to maintain confidentiality for candidates while allowing them to have integrity and ethics in the process at the same time,” Gianneschi said.
In CMC’s case, Hauser is in good standing with a long-term contract and Gianneschi said the college is fortunate to be in such a position and hiring a new president isn’t something that should come up for them in the near future.
“We love our president and are glad that (finding a replacement) is a non-question for Colorado Mountain College at this point. We have a terrific board and terrific president so things are in great shape,” Gianneschi said.
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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