Around the Big Ten: Wisconsin hiring of governor's aide criticized by attorney general

News from the home cities and states of the Big Ten universities:

WISCONSIN: Hiring by university criticized

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The appointment of Gov. Jim Doyle's top aide as a senior vice president in the University of Wisconsin System appears to have violated its hiring policy, the attorney general said this week.

Board of Regents policy should have required UW System President Kevin Reilly to convene a committee to recruit and recommend at least five qualified candidates for the position, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said.

But Reilly didn't create a committee or conduct a search before hiring Michael Morgan last month as senior vice president for administration and fiscal affairs. Morgan, who started this week, will be paid $245,000 annually. The job will last up to three years.

Morgan has spent the last eight years advising Doyle, who isn't seeking re-election in November.

"Because there does not appear to have been an advisory committee or the requisite number of qualified candidates identified by an advisory committee, the policy's procedures were not followed with respect to Mr. Morgan," Van Hollen wrote in a letter to Rep. Steve Nass, who had asked for an investigation.

Van Hollen rejected the UW's argument that Morgan's appointment was on an interim basis and therefore exempt from the search requirement. But he said the Department of Justice does not have power to reverse the decision and will not investigate further. Van Hollen advised the Board of Regents to "take any action it deems appropriate."

Board President Chuck Pruitt sent a letter later Wednesday calling for a review of the 22-year-old policy but defended Morgan's hiring, insisting it was on an interim basis. Pruitt said system presidents have long made such appointments "after consultation with Board leadership and without delay, which is what President Reilly did appropriately in this instance."

Reilly has said he did not conduct a national search because he wanted to fill the position immediately, due to several major, ongoing projects that the person named to the post would oversee. The last search for the job cost more than $100,000 and lasted several months.

Most interim appointments last only one or two years in the UW system, which includes 13 four-year universities and 13 two-year colleges. Typically, a provost is named interim chancellor while a national search is conducted to replace the one who left.

Van Hollen noted that Morgan's title does not contain the words "interim" or "acting," and that Morgan is serving a limited term at Reilly's pleasure like other high-ranking aides are required to do under Wisconsin law.

Morgan's position is also specifically among those that require a search committee under the policy, which does not make any exception for the length of an appointment, Van Hollen noted.

Pruitt said the policy does not contain any procedures for interim appointments, and "that clarity, it seems to me, is needed."

Morgan was offered the job – before submitting a resume or completing a background check – just weeks after Tom Anderes announced he was leaving to become president of the Arizona Board of Regents. An aide advised Reilly he had the power to extend Morgan's appointment "beyond three years if you like," according to an e-mail obtained under public records law.

Morgan, whose salary increased by $108,000 per year in his new job, is also guaranteed six months of pay if he is terminated under the terms of his employment.

Mike Mikalsen, a spokesman for Nass, who called for the investigation, said Van Hollen's letter confirms that the hiring was inappropriate but said he doubted that regents would reverse it. Mikalsen predicted that regents would change the policy to give the president wider latitude in making appointments.

"Our belief is the Board of Regents will hunker down and say, 'oops we screwed up and we won't do it again in the future,'" Mikalsen said.

Morgan served as the governor's Department of Revenue secretary in his first term, then became administration secretary, heading the state's most powerful agency that oversees the budget and other matters.

The regents are appointed by Doyle, who praised Reilly last week for making a "very, very good selection" in Morgan.

PURDUE: Former President Arthur Hansen dies at 85

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) – Former Purdue University President Arthur G. Hansen has died at age 85.

The university says Hansen died Monday in Fort Myers, Fla., following complications from surgery. Hansen was the university's president from 1971 until 1982 and is the only Purdue graduate to become its leader.

Under Hansen's administration, enrollment increased from 26,000 to more than 32,000 and new agriculture, psychology, life sciences and athletics buildings were built. Hansen also supported the establishment of Purdue's first Black Cultural Center and the purchase of its first supercomputer that was used to map the structure of the common cold virus.

He was president at Georgia Tech before taking the Purdue presidency. He was chancellor of the Texas A&M University system after leaving Purdue.

IOWA: University execs push for 21-only bars

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – University of Iowa vice president Tom Rocklin says nothing has quenched the thirst of the school's students for alcohol, which is why he is advocating for the city's new 21-and-older bar law.

Citing studies showing UI students drink at rates much higher than their peers nationally, Rocklin says the situation is not normal college behavior.

Rocklin spoke this week at a news conference called by 21 Makes Sense, which favors the city's new bar law.

Approved by the city council earlier this year, the law prevents people younger than 21 from being in an Iowa City bar after 10 p.m. Previously, the age limit was 19.

A successful petition drive has forced the council to repeal the law or put it to a public vote. The council is scheduled to discuss the issue Monday.

MINNESOTA: Former charter director pleads to embezzlement

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The former director of a Minneapolis charter school pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling more than $1 million from the school for American Indian children.

The Hennepin County Attorney's office says 40-year-old Joel Pourier of Shakopee pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of theft by swindle.

Prosecutors say Pourier forged school officials' signatures on dozens of checks and transferred money to at least six bank accounts he controlled.

A criminal complaint says Pourier spent the money on houses, cars and at strip clubs, forcing students at Oh Day Aki/Heart of the Earth school to go without textbooks, supplies and field trips. The Minneapolis School District eventually revoked the school's charter.

NEBRASKA: Fireworks polluted Lincoln's air, authorities say

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Health authorities say the night sky over Lincoln on July Fourth was filled with more than just loud bangs and pretty colors. It was heavy with fireworks pollution.

Rick Thorson is environmental health supervisor for air quality at the city-county health department. He says the air didn't start clearing until 2 a.m. or so.

He said the humidity and lack of wind made conditions ideal for keeping the polluted air low.

Thorson says the short stay for the bad air wouldn't have affected most people, but it could have irritated asthmatic conditions for some.

MICHIGAN: Feds says lawsuit is settled over housing bias

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – The U.S. government says the owners and operators of an Ann Arbor apartment complex have agreed to pay $82,500 to settle allegations of discrimination against blacks.

Three people will share $35,000, and the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan will get $40,000.

The Justice Department says Ivanhoe House Apartments treated blacks differently than whites when they asked about vacancies. A message seeking comment Tuesday was left with lawyers for Acme Investments, which owns the apartments.

The settlement calls for employee training and periodic reports to the government.

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