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NDSU foundation to spend $10K more on CEO search

FARGO -- North Dakota State University Development Foundation leaders still don't know whether Doug Mayo was simply a bad hire or whether it's somehow the foundation's fault that he left his position after 20 months, but they're about to pay $10,...

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FARGO - North Dakota State University Development Foundation leaders still don’t know whether Doug Mayo was simply a bad hire or whether it’s somehow the foundation’s fault that he left his position after 20 months, but they’re about to pay $10,000 more to find out.
As the university’s fundraising arm toils over the process of selecting a new leader, it’s still dealing with the fallout of the previous president and CEO, under whom 12 employees resigned in one year.
Two of those former employees, longtime leader Sherri Schmidt and Alumni Center director Amanda Krabbenhoft, both of whom claimed in their resignation letters that they were retaliated against, have now threatened the foundation with lawsuits.
On Tuesday, the foundation executive committee authorized attorney Lisa Edison-Smith to enter into a tolling agreement with Schmidt and Krabbenhoft’s lawyer, which Edison-Smith said would delay possible litigation as the parties work toward an amicable resolution.
“Right now, we don’t know what it is that they’re seeking,” she said in an interview.
The executive committee also voted Tuesday to hire Gray Plant Mooty, a Minneapolis-based law firm, to explore whether internal problems were behind Mayo’s quick exit. Specifically, attorney Sarah Duniway will analyze the foundation’s bylaws and look for inconsistencies with its sister organization, the Alumni Association.
Interim President and CEO Keith Bjerke said the short-term investigation might not answer “what went wrong,” but could answer other questions.
“Have we got any governance issues that we should address? Are our bylaws compatible with each other?” he said in an interview. “If there was something wrong, then it’ll start to show up, but I’m not asking her to come in here and pin people down and say who likes who and who doesn’t like somebody else.”
But not everyone is convinced the fault is internal, or that this probe is necessary to know what went wrong.
“All of our people are gone, and we’re being sued for employment issues. I don’t think we need to spend a whole lot of time answering that question,” said board member Jim Roers, who voted against hiring Duniway. “We made a bad hire. Acknowledge it, and move on.”
He and others said the decision was rushed and made for the wrong reasons, such as cost and convenience, though Jeff Volk, co-chairman of the search committee, stressed that Lois L. Lindauer Searches was not chosen for its cheapness but because it was the best fit.
Volk has estimated the search will cost $97,500, including search consultant Jill Lasman’s $65,000 fee.
Board member Gary Paulsrud said he is concerned they are limiting their pool of candidates by returning to that firm, which would revisit “the same Rolodex.”
Ultimately, the effort failed 7-5 in a vote that required a two-thirds majority.

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