Weather Forecast


Paulsen won't have second term on higher ed board

BISMARCK -- The Chancellor Potts controversy came back to bite John Q. Paulsen on Tuesday and, as a result, he won't be getting a second term on the state Board of Higher Education.

A state nominating committee declined to nominate Paulsen, of Fargo, and he'll leave the board when his term is up June 30. He had been eligible for four more years.

"I'm disappointed but not surprised," Paulsen said upon getting the news.

Paulsen said he knew Potts was an issue for many in the state, including legislators.

Paulsen is finishing a four-year term begun July 1, 2004, and was eligible for a second four-year term. He is finishing a second 1-year term as board president.

The nominating committee's three finalists being forwarded for Gov. John Hoeven's consideration are two former members of Hoeven's cabinet and senior staff, plus a Bismarck scientist.

They are retired adjutant general Michael Haugen of Fargo, Bismarck attorney and former gubernatorial legal counsel Robert Harms and Duane Pool, who works for The Nature Conservancy.

Nominating committee members considering eight applicants, including Paulsen, discussed Paulsen's role in forcing former University System Chancellor Robert Potts out of office in 2006, and a severance package the board gave Potts.

Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle, one of five on the committee, referred to "the Potts fiasco that was not handled well."

Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sanstead later echoed VandeWalle, also using the word "fiasco."

Potts was forced out when the board would not back him up in a power struggle with North Dakota State University President Joe Chapman.

Board members sided with Chapman. Paulsen was and is regarded as a strong ally of Chapman's, though the nominating committee did not mention Chapman or NDSU directly.

Potts had nearly a year remaining on his contract when he left at the end of July 2006 and was given a severance package in which he was to do consulting work for a year for $224,750.

Potts said Tuesday that the board and university system office never gave him any work, though he said interim Chancellor Eddie Dunn did call him for assistance a few times. He is now chancellor at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Paulsen said last July that Potts wasn't given any work because "Chancellor Dunn was providing all the services we needed."

Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, said he's received many phone calls about the Potts episode, especially the severance package. With the board now seeking a 53 percent funding increase from the 2009 Legislature, the combination "leaves a sour message," he said.

VandeWalle also said there seems to be mistrust of the board, He said it was a bad sign that when the search committee for a new University of North Dakota president was instructed to produce three names, it submitted only one.

"Apparently they don't trust the board to make that decision and that's bothersome," the chief justice said.

Another legislator on the nominating committee, House Speaker Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, said, "The board is not working" and that the board has been invited to meet with the Legislature's Budget Section but it hasn't accepted.

During the voting, Delzer said he couldn't vote for Paulsen.

"I'm not going to support him either," Cook said.

Applicants need at least four votes to qualify as a finalist. Despite the negative discussion, VandeWalle, Sanstead and North Dakota Education Association President Dakota Draper voted to forward Paulsen's name, but that gave Paulsen only three votes.

Hoeven must pick from the three names given him. He can't reject the list and tell the nominating committee to start over.

On Tuesday, Hoeven spokesman Don Canton said of Paulsen, "We appreciate his service to the board of Higher Education but the process requires we pick from the names we're given."

The other applicants were Mandan financial adviser Robert Wetsch; Dickinson teacher Heather Hertz who lives at Mott; retired teacher Gordon Brandvold of Devils Lake and Randy Schwartz of Bismarck, chief executive officer for the Dakota Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Sanstead said Hertz was his top candidate. VandeWalle also spoke highly of her, but said the timing wasn't right.

"I'm looking ahead," he said. "Pam's (Kostelecky) term is up next time. Frankly, she (Hertz) is the leading candidate for that position."

Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.